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
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
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."
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-713-6198.
2011 Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominees
• Sept. 28: Shane Blissard and Robbie Stewart, Middle
• 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
• Orange Bowl Courage Award