DALLAS (FWAA) – Vanderbilt’s De’Rickey Wright is this week’s nominee for the 2023 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award. Wright, a senior, lost his mother in 2020 and has fought through both football and injury concerns to be on the brink of becoming the first person from his family to graduate from college.
“She would be excited,” Wright told the school’s athletics website when asked what his mother would think of where he is today. “Still being here, having the ability to become the first person in my family to have a college degree? She’d have a big smile on her face.”
Christina Henderson gave birth to Wright when she was 16 years old. The two bounced from home to home for several years, with Wright regularly sleeping on floors and with food often hard to come by.
Henderson passed away at the age of 35 on Dec. 7, 2020, after suffering a brain aneurysm days earlier. Wright had to figure out how to look after his three younger sisters — Shi’Nita, Sha’Nora and Latrice — while navigating the challenges of being a college freshman during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vanderbilt went winless that season, coach Derek Mason was fired, and Wright barely saw time on the field as he dealt with a hamstring injury and was forced to quarantine twice because of pandemic policies.
Wright’s grades suffered and he struggled on the field during coach Clark Lea’s first season in 2021. Wright put his name in the transfer portal in February of 2022 but remained enrolled in school, eventually withdrawing his name from the portal in April.
Lea reinstated Wright to the roster in June of 2022, and the 6-foot-4, 217-pounder made enough of an impression to earn a starting role at the Commodores’ anchor position, despite having a plate and 12 screws inserted into a broken finger on his left hand.
The Gadsden, Ala., native finished the 2022 season with three interceptions, good for second in the SEC. Wright has started all six games he has played in this year — he missed time with an ankle injury — and is currently tied for the team lead this season in interceptions (two), forced fumbles (two) and fumble recoveries (one).
Wright has started in 22 of the 31 games he has played in during his college career, tallying 114 total tackles, seven tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, 15 passes defended and five interceptions.
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 Oregon tight end Cam McCormick (2022), 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).008), 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 404-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 2023 Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 30. For more information on the 2023 Orange Bowl events, including promotional inquiries and volunteer opportunities through the Ambassador Program, 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 email@example.com.
To submit a nomination for the Capital One Orange Bowl Courage Award, contact Matt Fortuna at firstname.lastname@example.org.