DALLAS (FWAA) – Minnesota's Casey O'Brien is
this week's nominee for the 2019 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage
Award. O'Brien, a redshirt sophomore walk-on holder, was diagnosed
with osteosarcoma when he was 13. He has survived it four times.
Growing up, my entire life had revolved around sports. I was
always going from one practice to the next," O'Brien said this summer,
when he delivered the keynote speech at the Big Ten Football Kickoff
Luncheon. "At 13 years old, I was told that I needed a full knee
replacement and nine months of chemotherapy. This meant I had to
give up all the sports that I had known and loved. I was told that
I would be lucky to walk, much less jog again, and that my football
career was over. Or so they thought."
O'Brien underwent 18 rounds of chemotherapy, an eight-and-a-half
hour knee replacement and bone replacement surgery. He spent nearly
90 nights in the hospital. Six months later, during O'Brien's sophomore
year of high school, his cancer relapsed in both of his lungs, which
led to three lung surgeries and seven months of chemotherapy.
"This was devastating news, but the circumstances I was placed
in were not going to dictate my life, and my behavior," O'Brien
said in his speech. "I wanted to play football again, and I wasn't
going to take no for an answer. So, after a complete left knee replacement
which included metal rods into my femur and tibia — please don't
ask me about going through security at the airport and while still
receiving chemotherapy treatment — I convinced my doctors to let
me move from quarterback to placeholder."
Cancer has returned twice since O'Brien entered college, but
he has not missed a practice, as he has taken chemo pills and worn
a specifically made shirt with a pad sewn in it to protect a medical
port in his chest.
In 2018, O'Brien was named Academic All-Big Ten team and was
a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar. This spring, he competed for a
starting job for the Golden Gophers, who are currently 4-0.
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 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 the Orange Bowl
The Orange Bowl is
a 360-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 community outreach efforts are comprised of four pillars: youth
sports, fundraising and community events, academic programs and
scholarships, and legacy gifts. The Orange Bowl features a year-round
schedule of events culminating with the Capital One Orange Bowl
on Monday, December 30, 2019. For more information on the 2019-2020
Orange Bowl events, including promotional and volunteer opportunities
through the Ambassador Program presented by Panera Bread, log on
Follow Orange Bowl:
Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of 1,400 men and women who cover college football.
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 and its annual All-America team.
For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve Richardson
2019 Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominees
Sept. 18: Blake Anderson, Arkansas State
• Sept. 25: Ashtyn Davis, Cal
Oct. 2: Casey O'Brien, Minnesota
One Orange Bowl Courage Award