DALLAS (FWAA) The Utah Utes
football team is the 20th annual recipient of the 2021 Capital
One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award. Utah won its first
Pac-12 title in a season that has been defined by both tragedy and
triumph, as the program has lost two of its players, Ty Jordan and
Aaron Lowe, since the end of the 2020 season.
Both players wore the No. 22 jersey, which the program has retired.
The message throughout the Utes has been to live the way Jordan
and Lowe did, and to be 22 percent better every day.
Utah is the third team to be honored as the Courage Award winner,
joining the 2005 Tulane and 2009 UConn teams.
"We always tell our guys that adversity will hit at some
point, but what matters most is how we respond to it," Utah
Head Coach Kyle Whittingham said. "This team has been faced
with more adversity than we ever thought possible, and watching
our players overcome it and respond to it the way they have has
been incredible. The level of unity and love this team has for one
another is something special. They define courage and we are proud
to coach them."
In 2020, Jordan led all freshmen nationally in rushing yards
per game (119.4) and was named the Pac-12's Offensive Freshman of
the Year. He tragically died on Dec. 26, 2020. Lowe, a good friend
of Jordan's who had attended West Mesquite High School in Texas
with him, was given the Ty Jordan Memorial Scholarship ahead of
this season. Lowe also changed his jersey number from No. 2 to No.
Lowe played in 20 career games and became Utah's backup nickelback
this season. But he, too, lost his life on Sept. 26, 2021 nine
months to the day of his friend and teammate's death. Utah has created
the Aaron Lowe Memorial Scholarship in Lowe's honor.
Utah retired the No. 22 jersey during an Oct. 30 game against
UCLA, making it the first retired number in school history. On that
same night, the program unveiled a video honoring Jordan and Lowe
that now plays at Rice-Eccles Stadium between the third and fourth
quarters. The video has come to affectionately be known as a "moment
of loudness," as Whittingham encourages fans to live the way
Jordan and Lowe did.
The Utes had entered that Oct. 30 matchup against the Bruins
at 4-3. They won that game, 44-24, to earn sole possession of first
place in the Pac-12 South. And they have not looked back since.
Utah has won six straight games and now sits at 10-3 overall
and No. 11 in the College Football Playoff rankings. Two of those
victories during this winning streak came in dominant fashion over
a higher-ranked Oregon team a 38-7 rout in Salt Lake City on Nov.
20, then a 38-10 victory in a rematch 13 days later in the Pac-12
Championship Game in Las Vegas.
"Every year, we are privileged to help share the stories
of so many remarkable people and programs throughout the college
football season," former FWAA President Matt Fortuna said. "Watching
this year's Utah team was particularly moving. The way the Utes
have been able to push forward and find tremendous success on the
field, while honoring Ty and Aaron every step of the way, shows
that they have never lost sight of life's bigger picture."
Utah will close its season against No. 6 Ohio State in the Rose
Bowl on New Year's Day, marking the Utes' first appearance in "The
Granddaddy of Them All."
"This is the 20th year that the FWAA has awarded the Courage
Award, and it's hard to think of a more appropriate representative
than this year's Utah team," Fortuna said. "We would like
to thank the Orange Bowl for their 17 years of sponsorship."
Amid Utah's confetti-filled celebration after winning the Pac-12
title, a member of the team's traveling party placed a red Pac-12
Champions t-shirt on the 22 yard line at Allegiant Stadium, in
honor of Jordan and Lowe.
Players spoke adamantly after the game about how much it meant
to win the conference title for Jordan and Lowe.
"The entire Utah football program has embodied what the
Courage Award is all about," Orange Bowl Committee President
and Chair Jack Seiler said. "Through their tributes to their
fallen brothers, and through their remarkable play on the field,
the Utes have simply been inspiring to so many around college football.
They have represented the very best of this great game. We are excited
to honor them on December 31."
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 Utes will be included in festivities
during Capital One Orange Bowl week and recognized during the
Previous winners of the Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage
Award are Arkansas State analyst Alex Charlton (2020), Arkansas
State coach Blake Anderson (2019), SUNY Cortland linebacker Kyle
Richard (2018), Wisconsin safety D'Cota Dixon (2017), Pitt running
back James Conner (2016), Miami offensive lineman Hunter Knighton
(2015), 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 380-member, primarily-volunteer non-profit sports organization
that promotes and serves the South Florida community. With its primary
mission since being created in 1935 to bring tourism to South Florida
through an annual football game and events, it has also maintained
a legacy of charitable contributions and community outreach. Orange
Bowl community outreach efforts are comprised of four pillars through
its Orange Bowl Cares program: Youth Sports, Education, Community
Engagement and Legacy Programs. Orange Bowl features a year-round
schedule of events culminating with the College Football Playoff
Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 31, 2021. For more
information on the 2021 Orange Bowl events, including promotional
inquiries and volunteer opportunities through the Ambassador Program
presented by Panera Bread, log on to
follow @OrangeBowl on social media.
Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America
consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers
and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works
to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards
and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information
about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive
Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or
2021 Capital One Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominees
Sept. 22: McKenzie Milton, Florida State
Sept. 29: Yohance Burnett, Tulsa
Oct. 6: J.J. Weaver, Kentucky
Oct. 13: Elijah Hicks, Cal
Oct. 20: Eli Thomas, Minnesota State
Oct. 27: Taijh Alston, West Virginia
Nov. 3: Utah Utes
Nov. 10: Vederian Lowe, Illinois
Nov. 17: Tre Tipton, Pitt
Nov. 24: Tanner Morgan, Minnesota
One Orange Bowl Courage Award
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