DALLAS (FWAA) – Texas' Blaine Irby is the weekly
nominee for the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award,
to be announced at the end of the season. Irby, a senior tight end
from Camarillo, Calif., has returned to football after a gruesome
injury three years ago left doctors uncertain whether he would ever
walk normally again.
Once considered the heir-apparent in Texas' line of talented
tight ends, Irby's career was derailed in September 2008 when he
suffered a devastating knee injury when hit by a Rice defender.
Kenny Boyd, Texas' head athletic trainer, told the San Antonio
Express-News the injury was "limb-threatening." Irby's knee was
dislocated. The ACL, LCL, meniscus and surrounding cartilage were
torn. After surgery and rehab, Irby continued to suffer from nerve
damage, which prevented his right foot from functioning properly.
Irby underwent three surgeries. The nerves didn't begin to fire
until December 2009, about 15 months after the injury. Irby had
finally come to terms with not playing football again, but one day
he suddenly felt a twitch in his right foot.
"I did it probably a thousand times that night," he said.
It took much more rehab, and Irby had to talk Texas coach Mack
Brown into allowing him to play again, but he returned this fall.
"If you call having less than a 5 percent chance to walk normally
and two years later returning to the field being a miracle, then
I would say it was a miracle," Boyd said.
Ironically, the Longhorns' first game was against Rice. Irby
started against the Owls, and he has played in Texas' first five
games. He had two catches for 12 last week against Oklahoma – his
first receptions since the injury.
"I'm glad to be back," Irby said. "It's been a long process.
It's been a really long road, but I'm just glad to be back with
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