Eastern Kentucky's Wells nominated for Orange Bowl Courage Award

DALLAS (FWAA) – Eastern Kentucky coach Walt Wells is this week’s nominee for the 2022 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award. Wells suffered a cardiac episode in late August, before returning to coach the Colonels in their third game of the season.

“I feel really good,” Wells said upon his return. “The doctors at UK (HealthCare) did an amazing job. I’ve got to thank our trainers.

“For them to act the way they reacted and (go) to work quickly on me was phenomenal. And then got up to UK, got everything squared away. It looked bleak for awhile.”

Walt WellsWells collapsed on the morning of Aug. 28, five days before he was set to open his third season as Eastern Kentucky’s head coach. Director of Football Operations Thomas Bowling found Wells in his office, and members of the program’s athletic training staff performed CPR and hooked Wells up to a defibrillator.

The 54-year-old Wells was taken to UK HealthCare in nearby Lexington, where doctors — along with the rapid response of the coach’s colleagues — were able to save his life. Wells left the hospital just four days later, and he returned to the sideline for the Colonels’ third game of the season, a 40-17 win over Charleston Southern.

“The good news for me is I don’t remember much of it,” Wells said of the health scare. “The bad news for my wife and my kids and close friends and those people that were involved, they remember every bit of it.”

Eastern Kentucky is 2-2 this season and has a 12-12 record since Wells took over as head coach. Wells led the biggest single-season turnaround in program history in 2021, lifting the Colonels to a 7-4 record after a 3-6 showing in 2020. Wells was named ASUN coach of the year last season.

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 the University of Utah football Team (2021), 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 Bratton (2002).

About Orange Bowl
Orange Bowl is a 391-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’s community outreach is embodied by the four pillars of 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 2022 Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 30. For more information on the 2022 Orange Bowl events, including promotional inquiries and volunteer opportunities through the Ambassador Program presented by Panera Bread, log on to orangebowl.org or 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 tiger@fwaa.com.

To submit a nomination for the Capital One Orange Bowl Courage Award, contact Matt Fortuna at mfortuna@theathletic.com.