Football Writers Association of America Dec. 19, 2011
For Immediate Release
Contact: George Schroeder
Senior lineman returns after fighting bone cancer
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DALLAS (FWAA) Michigan State's Arthur Ray Jr. has been named the winner of the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award. Ray, a senior offensive lineman from Chicago, returned to football this season, four years after bone cancer derailed his career.


The award will be presented Jan. 3, 2012, at the AVMed Orange Bowl Coaches Luncheon in Miami; Ray will be honored again Jan. 4 on the field during the Discover Orange Bowl.

"This is a tremendous award for a young man who has conquered all of the odds up against him," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "He's played in games this year and has participated on the practice field daily. It's been a long road. He was on crutches for almost two years, from 2007 to 2009. He's really a living example to our football team on what you can do with a positive attitude and if you just continue to work, how you can conquer all obstacles."

Ray signed with Michigan State as a highly recruited lineman from Chicago's Mount Carmel High School in 2007, but was soon diagnosed with cancer in his left leg. Through nine surgeries including four bone grafts countless rounds of chemotherapy and several outbreaks of infection, he was unable to practice or play. For almost two years, he was unable to walk without crutches.

He had been given a medical disqualification and remained on scholarship with Michigan State. But last April, doctors cleared him to resume football.

"I was in class, and I just cried tears of joy," Ray told the Associated Press. "It felt so good because it just represents so much now. I just feel like I have to represent everybody that's still dealing with bad things, like chemo."

Still, practicing was one thing; playing quite another. On Sept. 3, when the Spartans opened the season against Youngstown State, starting left guard Joel Foreman a fifth-year senior and a team co-captain asked Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio if he could give up his position to his friend. Foreman had started 22 straight games and 36 of 38 in his career."I know he probably thinks it was powerful for him, but it was just as powerful for me to watch him out there," Foreman said. "It's something he deserves and something he earned. It's not something I did."

During a team meal on the eve of the opener, Dantonio asked Ray to stand, then said, according to the Detroit News: "Young man, you are going to start your first college football game."

Ray participated in only the first play, but blocked two players.

"I know he probably thinks it was powerful for him, but it was just as powerful for me to watch him out there," Foreman said. "It's something he deserves and something he earned. It's not something I did."

Said Ray: "I've been waiting for this moment for so long, it was just a great feeling. Actually, I had butterflies for about two hours before the game. Man, I missed that feeling for so long."

Ray played in two more games, against Florida Atlantic and in his final home game against Indiana.

"I'm really appreciative of this great award, and I know that every single player who was nominated deserves to receive it," Ray said. "I'm just grateful that I'm blessed with this opportunity. It's been a hard process, but my love of football never stopped. I've always had this fire. Even in my weakest of moments, when I didn't really want to go to that doctor's visit or go to that rehab session, just every rough step along the way, I always kept football on my mind.

"The opportunity to play and practice means everything. I was talking to an old friend the other day from when I first started playing football, and from back then, I always dreamed to be in this position to play major college football. And my dreams are coming true. I'm still not satisfied, but at the end of the day, I've come a real long way. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world than wearing these pads and being with my teammates."

Added Dantonio: "Arthur has tremendous faith and has been a role model for so many people in the Greater Lansing community in his fight against cancer. He's made a difference in so many people's lives I can't even begin to count, not just in our players' lives, but everybody who is around him, he makes life a little bit better. He makes it a little bit easier for people to make it through their problems. I tell him often times he sees life right now through a different lens, and that makes a difference sometimes for him. He's much more mature than a normal college player because of the things that he's gone through in his life up until now. He continues to be a role model for all of us."

For the sixth straight year, the Football Writers Association of America and the Discover Orange Bowl announced a weekly nominee for the Discover Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award each Wednesday during the season. A blue-ribbon panel determined the award's recipient from those weekly nominees.

The Courage Award was created by ESPN The Magazine's senior writer Gene Wojciechowski, also an FWAA member. A select group of FWAA members vote on the recipient each year. The requirements for nomination include displaying courage on or off the field, including overcoming an injury or physical handicap, preventing a disaster or living through hardship.

Previous winners of the FWAA's Courage Award are Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand (2010), the University of Connecticut football team (2009), Tulsa's Wilson Holloway (2008), Navy's Zerbin Singleton (2007), Clemson's Ray Ray McElrathbey (2006), the Tulane football team (2005), Memphis' Haracio Colen (2004), San Jose State's Neil Parry (2003) and Toledo's William Bratton (2002).

The Orange Bowl Committee is a 341-member, primarily-volunteer non-profit sports organization that promotes and serves the South Florida community. The Orange Bowl Festival features a year-round schedule of events culminating with the Discover Orange Bowl on January 4, 2012. Other OBC core events include the MetroPCS Orange Bowl Basketball Classic, Orange Bowl Youth Football Alliance presented by Sports Authority, Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships, Orange Bowl Sailing Regatta Series and Orange Bowl Paddle Championships. For more information on the 2011-12 Orange Bowl Festival and its events, including promotional and volunteer opportunities through the Ambassador Program, visit

The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization founded in 1941, consists of more than 1,200 men and women who cover college football for a living. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include gameday operations, major awards and its annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve Richardson at or 972-713-6198.

2011 Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominees
Sept. 28: Shane Blissard and Robbie Stewart, Middle Tennessee
Oct. 5: Carson Tinker, Alabama
Oct. 12: Blaine Irby, Texas
Oct. 19: David Lerner, Florida
Oct. 26: Mike James, Miami
Nov. 2: Arthur Ray Jr., Michigan State
Nov. 16: Shane Simpson and Jack Long, Missouri Western State

Related link:
Orange Bowl Courage Award