DALLAS (FWAA) California offensive lineman Mike Tepper is this week's nominee for the FedEx Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award to be announced at the end of the 2006 season.
Tepper, a sophomore, has returned to football after missing the 2005 season because of a severely broken leg. The injury occurred in June 2005, when he tried to protect a female friend from harassment and was run over twice by a car.
Tepper was crossing a street near the Cal campus with his friend, a former Cal volleyball player, when a group of convicted felons began taunting her. Tepper, a 6-6, 322-pounder, stepped between the men's car and his friend and asked them to stop.
When the men put the car in reverse, Tepper pushed his friend out of the way. The car rolled over his right leg twice. The injury was severe enough that amputation of his foot was considered. Instead, doctors inserted nine screws and a metal plate.
"Something that hasn't really left my mind is people who walk away from situations because of the possibility of something happening to them," Tepper told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Other than that, I don't think about it much. I wasn't looking to do something spectacular, so I don't accept the hero tag at all."
Tepper would rather talk about his play on the field. He is a regular at left tackle for the 8-2 Bears, who face USC in a Pac-10 showdown on Saturday.
For the first time, the FWAA and the FedEx Orange Bowl will announce a weekly nominee each Wednesday during the season. A blue-ribbon panel will determine the winner from all of the nominees. The winner of the FedEx Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award will be announced in December and be presented with the trophy.
The Courage Award was created by ESPN The Magazine's senior writer Gene Wojciechowski, also a FWAA member. 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.
Previous winners of the FWAA's Courage Award are 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 not-for-profit, 329-member, all-volunteer organization that exists as a self-sustaining, independent organization supporting and producing activities and events which enhance the image, economy, and culture of South Florida . Among the OBC core events are the Orange Bowl Festival, FedEx Orange Bowl and World-Class Halftime Show, the MetroPCS Orange Bowl Basketball Classic, the WaMu Orange Bowl Fan Fest presented by the City of Miami, the Budweiser Orange Bowl Tailgate Party, Boston Market Orange Bowl Youth Football Championships, Orange Bowl Cheer & Dance Championships, Orange Bowl Swim Classic, Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships and Orange Bowl Sailing Regatta Series.
The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization founded in 1941, consists of more than 900 men and women across North America 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 game day operations, major awards, a national poll and its annual All-America team.
2006 Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominees
Sept. 20: Ray Ray McElrathbey, Clemson
· Sept. 27: Martel Van Zant, Oklahoma State
· Oct. 4: Terry Hoeppner, Indiana
· Oct. 11: Dan Howell, Washington
· Oct. 18: Eddie Martin, Navy
· Oct. 25: Bill Doba, Washington State
· Nov. 1: Jerry Kill, Southern Illinois
· Nov. 8: Carl Pendleton, Oklahoma
· Nov. 15: Mike Tepper, California
· Nov. 29: Carlos Garcia, Oregon State