DALLAS (FWAA) Miami offensive lineman
Hunter Knighton is the winner of the 2015
Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award.
Knighton, a 6-foot-6, 300-pound redshirt sophomore, returned
to action for the Hurricanes this season less than 19 months after
suffering a heat stroke that nearly killed him.
"It's just a great feeling that everyone's hard work in this
whole thing paid off," Knighton said. "I got to prove that you can
come back from these sorts of things, and a lot of people who've
had these types of things happen medically, they want to come back
but they're not allowed to."
On Feb. 24, 2014, Knighton collapsed during conditioning drills.
Knighton did not know it at the time, but he had been fighting the
flu. His body temperature rose to 109 degrees. He spent 12 days
in a coma. He lost 55 pounds. He underwent surgery to repair his
paralyzed vocal chords.
A Pottstown, Pa., native, Knighton, the second of four children,
said his mother took off several months of work to move near him
in Florida to help with his recovery. He was later evaluated at
the Korey Stringer Institute in Connecticut, which is named for
the late Vikings lineman who died of heatstroke in 2001.
"This is a tremendous honor for Hunter and I could not be more
thrilled that he will be recognized on college football's biggest
stage," said Miami interim head coach Larry Scott. "Hunter has shown
a tremendous amount of courage over the past 12 months and he is
truly deserving of this award. The work ethic he has shown to get
back on the field and play a major role on our team has been truly
inspirational to everyone associated with our program."
Knighton's ensuing hurdles were as much mental as they were physical.
He said he became much more spiritual and learned about resiliency,
as he fought through good days and bad days to get back to where
he once was.
Knighton regained his weight, but simple things were and still
are more difficult to come by. For example, it takes him longer
to take notes in class now, he said, a byproduct of the hit his
brain took. Still, the economics major has made significant progress
in that area, and he hopes to go for his MBA at Miami upon receiving
his undergraduate degree.
Knighton, who said he is no longer on medication, returned to
the field for the start of fall camp this year, running with the
second-team offensive line and looking from the get-go to pick up
where he had left off when he last took practice reps nearly two
"It's like just catching up," Knighton said. "I haven't had a
full go in the offseason and stuff like that, so that's my biggest
thing, is really getting my strength back and really getting into
it. I'm really proud of myself for what I've accomplished. This
really being my first year in college football, I feel like I've
put myself in a good spot. Now I just want to accomplish all the
goals I set out when I signed to come to UM."
Among those goals is helping Miami win an ACC championship. Knighton
saw playing time in all 12 games this season for the Hurricanes,
who went 8-4 and 5-3 in the ACC. They close their season Dec. 26
against Washington State in the Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.
Another goal? To be recognized for his play on the field. Knighton,
a center, appreciates the attention his story has drawn he also
won the Brian Piccolo Award, which the ACC gives to its most courageous
player but he came to "The U" to make a name for himself on the
gridiron, which he will have two more years to do.
After fighting for his life, Knighton values that opportunity
more than most.
"Just getting this much recognition for these awards and stuff
for my play on field," Knighton said of his remaining goals at Miami.
"It's nice to be honored for something like this, but I came here
to play football, and I really just want to be recognized for the
athlete I am."
The Courage Award was first presented by the Football Writers
Association of America (FWAA) in 2002. A select group of writers
from the FWAA vote on the winner 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. The winner of the award will be included
in festivities during Capital One Orange Bowl week and receive his
trophy at an on-field presentation.
Previous winners of the Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage
Award are Duke offensive lineman Laken Tomlinson (2014), San Jose
State defensive lineman Anthony Larceval (2013), Clemson wide receiver
Daniel Rodriguez (2012), Michigan State offensive lineman Arthur
Ray Jr. (2011), 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
About the Orange Bowl
The Orange Bowl is a 363-member, primarily-volunteer
non-profit sports organization that promotes and serves the South
Florida community. The Orange Bowl features a year-round schedule
of events culminating with the College Football Playoff Semifinal
at the Capital One Orange Bowl on December 31, 2015. Other Orange
Bowl 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 International
Youth Regatta, Orange Bowl Swim Classic and Orange Bowl Paddle Championships.
For more information on the 2015-16 Orange Bowl events, including
promotional and volunteer opportunities through the Ambassador Program
presented by Panera Bread, log on to
Follow Orange Bowl:
Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015, the Football
Writers Association of America consists of 1,400 men and
women who cover college football. 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 game-day 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.
2015 Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominees
Sept. 16: Bobby Swigert, Boston College
Sept. 23: Jake Olson, USC
Sept. 30: Anthony Zettel, Penn State
Oct. 7: Leonard Fournette, LSU
Oct. 14: Cheatham Norrils, Toledo
Oct. 21: J.B. Grimes, Auburn
Oct. 28: D.J. Foster, Arizona State
Nov. 4: Demetrious Nicholson, Virginia
Nov. 11: Jerry Kill, Minnesota
Nov. 18: Mitchell Meyers, Iowa State
Nov. 25: Hunter Knighton, Miami
Dec. 2: Justin Hansen, Colorado State
Capital One Orange
Bowl Courage Award