Football Writers Association of America Oct. 2, 2019
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jacob Rosuck
305-341-4785
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Academic All-Big Ten selection has battled osteosarchoma
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MINNESOTA'S O'BRIEN NOMINATED
FOR ORANGE BOWL-FWAA COURAGE AWARD

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.

O'Brien

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 to orangebowl.org. Follow Orange Bowl: @OrangeBowl, Facebook and Instagram.

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 at tiger@fwaa.com.

2019 Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominees
Sept. 18: Blake Anderson, Arkansas State
Sept. 25: Ashtyn Davis, Cal
Oct. 2: Casey O'Brien, Minnesota

Related link:
Capital One Orange Bowl Courage Award