DALLAS (FWAA) Middle Tennessee receiver Shane Blissard
and athletic trainer Robbie Stewart are the first weekly
nominees for the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl FWAA Courage Award, to be announced
at the end of the season.
a senior from Murfreesboro, Tenn., has returned to football after
suffering an injury to his spleen during a scrimmage last spring.
Stewart, an athletic trainer at the school, quickly diagnosed the
symptoms, enabling Blissard to receive prompt treatment for the
Blissard was injured March 26 when tackled after a catch. Two
defensive players hit him; a helmet speared him. Blissard suffered
a ruptured spleen, fractured rib and bruised kidney. In addition,
the hit caused pneumothorax, a collection of air in the pleural
cavity (between the lungs and the chest wall).
"It was a normal hit," Blissard told the Daily News Journal of
Murfreesboro, "and I thought the wind was knocked out of me."
Blissard returned to the sideline, but Stewart continued to monitor
him. When Blissard vomited and then reported dizziness, Stewart
took notice. Blissard's blood pressure abruptly changed, too. Stewart
had previous experience with a ruptured spleen.
"Robbie recognized it, even though it's not something you see
that often," Drew Shea, Middle Tennessee State's director of sports
medicine, told the Daily News Journal. "But for Robbie to pick up
on that is pretty impressive."
Blissard was quickly transported to the hospital and underwent
emergency surgery less than 90 minutes after the hit. He lost more
than 3-1/2 liters of blood from internal bleeding from the spleen,
and underwent a second surgery the next morning after losing more
blood because of a damaged vessel.
"When I finally got the phone call that said, We're in surgery
and he's stable,' that's when the relief came over me," Stewart
told the Daily News Journal.
Doctors told Blissard's mother Stewart's quick actions saved
her son's life.
"Robbie is the hero here," Missy Blissard told the Daily News
Blissard, a walk-on who has forged a playing role for the Blue
Raiders, recovered well and returned to football this fall. He caught
passes in the first two games, extending his personal streak to
12 straight games, before being shut out in the third.
For the sixth straight year, the Football Writers Association
of America and the Discover Orange Bowl will announce
a weekly nominee for the Discover Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award
each Wednesday during the season. A blue-ribbon panel will determine
the award's recipient from those weekly nominees. The recipient
of the Courage Award will be announced in December and presented
with the trophy in conjunction with this year's Discover Orange
The Courage Award was created by ESPN The Magazine's senior writer
Gene Wojciechowski, also an FWAA member. A select group of FWAA
members vote on the recipient 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
Previous winners of the FWAA's Courage Award are 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).
The Orange Bowl Committee is a 341-member, primarily-volunteer
non-profit sports organization that promotes and serves the South
Florida community. The Orange Bowl Festival features a year-round
schedule of events culminating with the Discover Orange Bowl on
January 4, 2012. Other OBC 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 Sailing Regatta Series and Orange Bowl Paddle Championships.
For more information on the 2011-12 Orange Bowl Festival and its
events, including promotional and volunteer opportunities through
the Ambassador Program, visit
The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization
founded in 1941, consists of more than 1,200 men and women 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 gameday 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 or 972-713-6198.
2011 Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominees
Sept. 28: Shane Blissard and Robbie Stewart, Middle
Oct. 5: Carson Tinker, Alabama
Oct. 12: Blaine Irby, Texas
Oct. 19: David Lerner, Florida
Oct. 26: Mike James, Miami
Nov. 2: Arthur Ray Jr., Michigan State
Nov. 16: Shane Simpson and Jack Long, Missouri
Orange Bowl Courage Award