Wisconsin’s Dietzen nominated for Capital One Orange Bowl Courage Award Reply

DALLAS — Wisconsin’s Jon Dietzen is this week’s nominee for the 2020 Capital One Orange Bowl Courage Award. Dietzen, a sixth-year senior offensive guard, returned to the gridiron this season after initially retiring from football due to a number of ankle and hip injuries.

Jon Dietzen

“My family helped convince me I really should come back and do it,” Dietzen said ahead of his return. “I remember watching games and saying, ‘Oh, I bet I could still do that.’ They said, ‘Well, if you think you can, why don’t you?'”

The 6-foot-6, 319-pound Dietzen had started 20 games at left guard on Wisconsin’s offensive line from 2016-17, helping the Badgers win back-to-back Big Ten West titles and win the Capital One Orange Bowl in 2017. He started 12 games at left tackle in 2018.

Ankle and hip injuries, however, bugged him throughout much of his career, and he had hip surgery ahead of the 2018 season. He was forced to medically retire from football after the 2018 season. Even before Dietzen hung up the cleats, fellow offensive lineman Cole Van Lanen had called Dietzen the toughest guy he knew.

Capital One Orange Bowl Courage Award

In the summer of 2019, Dietzen started feeling better. He trained for months and said he felt fine. The Black Creek, Wis., native watched his teammates play without him and began to miss the game more and more. He trusted his body, along with the messages of encouragement from those in his corner, and he decided he wanted to give it another go.

Dietzen approached Wisconsin’s coaching staff in the middle of the 2019 season about possibly returning. The program made his return official when it released its roster in late September ahead of the 2020 season.

On Friday night in Madison, Wis., Dietzen started at right guard in the Badgers’ 45-7 win over Illinois. “Definitely the more football I watched, the more I missed it,” Dietzen said.

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 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).

About the Orange Bowl
The Orange Bowl is a 380-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 Jan. 2, 2021. The Orange Bowl also led a community-wide effort to bring the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship to South Florida. It will be played on Jan. 11, 2021 (2021miami.com). For more information on the 2020-2021 Orange Bowl events, including promotional and volunteer opportunities through the Ambassador Program presented by Panera Bread, log on to orangebowl.org or follow @OrangeBowl on social media.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of 1,200 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.

2020 Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominees
Oct. 28: Jon Dietzen, Wisconsin

Related link:
Capital One Orange Bowl Courage Award

Armed Forces Merit Award 2020 finalists revealed Reply

Fort Worth, Texas Three individuals have been named as finalists for the 2020 Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).

The announcement of the 2020 recipient will be made via a 10 a.m. (CT) teleconference Wednesday, Nov. 11 – Veteran’s Day – by Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl Executive Director Brant Ringler and FWAA President Matt Fortuna.

One of the three individuals for the 2020 Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA was also finalists in 2019 when Army West Point assistant coach Mike Viti was announced last November as the eighth recipient.

Defensive lineman and Marine veteran Alexander Findura of Bloomsburg College of Pennsylvania leads the list of three individuals named as 2020 finalists after he advanced to the final round of voting in 2019.

The other two 2020 Armed Forces Mert Award finalists are defensive lineman and Army veteran Collin O’Donnell of Bluefield College of Virginia and defensive back coach and Air Force veteran Charlton Warren.

The Armed Forces Merit Award’s selection committee is made up of seven FWAA members and two representatives from the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl. A total of 38 individuals and three programs were nominated for the 2019 award that was created in June 2012 “to honor an individual and/or a group with a military background and/or involvement that has an impact within the realm of college football.”

Other recipients for the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA were Nate Boyer of the University of Texas (2012), Brandon McCoy of the University of North Texas (2013), Daniel Rodriguez from Clemson University (2014), Bret Robertson of Westminster College (Fulton, Mo., 2015), Steven Rhodes from Middle Tennessee State University (2016) and Dr. Chris Howard from Robert Morris University (2018).

Boyer (long snapper), McCoy (defensive lineman), Rodriquez (wide receiver) and Robertson (defensive back) served in the Army before playing collegiate football. A Marine, Rhodes played four seasons at Middle Tennessee and participated in the 2013 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl with the Blue Raiders.

A 1991 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, Dr. Howard was a Rhodes Scholar and received the 1990 Campbell Trophy, the highest academic award in the nation presented to a senior college football player. A member of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee (2017-2019), Dr. Howard was inducted into the CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame and a recipient of the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award, which recognizes distinguished individuals on the 25th anniversary of the conclusion of their collegiate athletic careers.

Kansas State and its football team were honored in November 2017 as the sixth recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award for the university’s partnership with the United States Army that created a bond between the school’s athletic department and the Iron Rangers at Fort Riley.

Media Contacts

Tim Simmons, AFMA Coordinator at 720/244-650 or bfishinc@aol.com

Steve Richardson, FWAA at 214/870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com

Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA – 2020 finalists

Alexander Findura

Alexander Findura is a senior defensive lineman at Bloomsburg University where he has appeared in 29 career games and compiled 83 total tackles (41 solos) with 9.5 sacks,22 tackles for losses with two forced fumbles and six pass deflections. In 2019, Findura started in all 11 games for Bloomsburg and totaled 57 tackles along with leading the team in sacks (7) and tackles for a loss (16.5). Findura started his collegiate career at Georgia State where he was redshirted as a freshman in 2011. With a family history of military service (father in the Navy and grandfather an Army veteran), Findura joined the Marines is the summer of 2012. Before his arrival to Bloomsburg University, Alex Findura served four years in the United States Marines and, during his service, was a member of an elite team known as the Body Bearers. The section’s primary mission is to bear the caskets at funerals for Marines, former Marines, and Marine family members at Arlington National Cemetery and the surrounding cemeteries in the National Capital Region. On occasion, they are called to travel to locations around the country to support funerals for senior statesmen, heads of state, and former Presidents of the United States. Entering his fourth season of play at Bloomsburg as a defensive lineman, Findura was named in September as one 22 student-athletes across the country named to the 2020 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team®.

Collin O’Donnell

Collin O’Donnell, a junior defensive lineman at Bluefield College, serving in the U.S Army from 2013-2016 and was injured in Afghanistan. After two years at Walter Reed National Military Medical Hospital and seven operations to save his foot, he fully rehabilitated and went back home to Buffalo, N.Y. where he began training with the sole intention of playing college football. While at Walter Reed National Military Medical Hospital, O’Donnell was invited to the White House, where former President Barack Obama personally awarded him the Presidential Call to Service Award for his outstanding service to community. In his first two season playing at Bluefield, O’Donnell has compiled 34 total tackles in 15 games, including 16 unassisted stops. O’Donnell has 7.5 tackles for losses (19.5 yards), one quarterback sack (seven yards) and two passes broken up. O’Donnell, who maintains a 3.33 accumulative grade point average, has volunteered to be an ambassador for the school and leads tours for prospective students. He O’Donnell received the 2019 Richmond Touchdown Club Man of the Year Award this past December, one of the highest honors a College football player in the state of Virginia can receive. In the fall of 2019, O’Donnell won the Tazewell County Business Challenge for entrepreneurs and opened his Coffee and Bake shop called “The Grind” in May 2020. O’Donnell received Bluefield College’s 2019 Champion of Character award from the Mid-South Conference.

Charlton Warren

Charlton Warren is in the midst of his second-season as a defensive backfield coach at the University of Georgia. In his first season on the Georgia staff, the Bulldogs led the nation in scoring and rushing defense and ranked among FBS leaders in several other categories. A native of Atlanta, Ga., Warren has coached previously at the U. S. Air Force Academy (2005-2013), Nebraska (2014), North Carolina (2015-2016), Tennessee (2017) and Florida (2019). Warren also participated in the NFL minority internship program in 2007 with the Houston Texans. Warren was a member of the Air Force coaching staff that competed in four Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl games (2007-2009, 2012). In the Falcons’ 47-20 win over Houston in the 2009 games, Air Force’s defense held 2009 NCAA leading passer, Case Keenum to 222 yards and only one touchdown while intercepting him six times. Warren was a three-year letterman at defensive back for Air Force, and helped the program achieve consecutive 10-win seasons in 1997 and 1998. A 1999 Air Force graduate a degree in Human Factors Engineering, Warren was stationed at Warner Robins AFB in Georgia from 2000-2003 where he was a C-130 avionics program manager. Before returning to the Academy in 2005, Warren was stationed at Eglin AFB in Florida as an air-to-ground weapons program manager for the Air Armament Center.

Armed Forces Merit Award nominations announced Reply

Fort Worth, Texas — A total of 38 individuals and three programs have been nominated for the 2020 Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). The list includes eight collegiate players, 14 college coaches, 14 college and university administrators and two college referees.

Coordinated by the staff at the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA was created in June 2012 “to honor an individual and/or a group with a military background and/or involvement that has an impact within the realm of college football.”

With 38 nominations (33 individuals and five programs) considered for the 2019 award, Army West Point coach and military service veteran Mike Viti was the eighth recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award. A graduate of West Point, Viti has completed four seasons at the school’s fullback coach and co-founded Legacies Alive (LA), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

The mission of the Legacies Alive is to strengthen and support the Gold Star families of our nation’s fallen heroes and brings national awareness to the life and character of all service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Viti oversees the strategic and executive direction of the organization.

Other recipient include Nate Boyer of the University of Texas (2012), Brandon McCoy of the University of North Texas (2013), Daniel Rodriguez from Clemson University (2014), Bret Robertson of Westminster College (Fulton, Mo., 2015), Steven Rhodes from Middle Tennessee State University (2016) and Dr. Chris Howard from Robert Morris University (2018).

Boyer (long snapper), McCoy (defensive lineman), Rodriquez (wide receiver) and Robertson (defensive back) served in the Army before playing collegiate football. A Marine, Rhodes played four seasons at Middle Tennessee and participated in the 2013 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl with the school.

A 1991 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, Dr. Howard was a Rhodes Scholar and received the 1990 Campbell Trophy, the highest academic award in the nation presented to a senior college football player. A member of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee (2017-2019), Dr. Howard was inducted into the CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame and a recipient of the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award, which recognizes distinguished individuals on the 25th anniversary of the conclusion of their collegiate athletic careers.

Kansas State and its football team were honored in November 2017 as the sixth recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award for the university’s partnership with the United States Army that created a bond between the school’s athletic department and the Iron Rangers at Fort Riley.

Media Contacts

Tim Simmons, AFMA Coordinator at 720/244-650 or bfishinc@aol.com
Steve Richardson, FWAA at 214/870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com

2020 Armed Forces Merit Award Nominations

 Programs

Active Players

  • Cornelius Andrews, Union College, WR, 5-7, 148, Jun., Stockbridge, GA.
  • Alexander Findura, Bloomsburg, DL, 6-6, 255, Sen., Woodland, Ga. (U. S. Marine Corps)
  • Rashaud Freeman, Webber International, LB, 6-0, 225, Jun, Jacksonville, Fla. (U. S. Army)
  • Rasheed Holloway, Union College, WR, 6-0, 198, Jun., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
  • Damian Jackson, Nebraska, DL, 6-2, 275, Jun. Las Vegas, Nev. (U. S. Navy)
  • Kenwon Mack, Union College, CB, 5-9, 165, Soph., Detroit, Mich.
  • Collin O’Donnell, Bluefield College, DL, 6-0, 250, Soph., North Tonawanda, N.Y. (U. S. Army)
  • Josh Schenck, Oklahoma, LB, 5-11, 210, Sen., Knightdale, N.C. (ROTC Cadet)

Football Coaching Staff

  • Troy Calhoun, Head Coach, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Jake Campbell, Assistant Backfield, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Jordan Eason, Assistant Offensive Line, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Robert Green, Defense Assistant & Director of Racial Equality, United States Naval Academy (U. S. Marine Corps)
  • Brian Knorr, Inside Linebackers, U. S. Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Steed Lobotzke, Offensive Line, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Alex Means, Outside Linebackers, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Ben Miller, Running Backs/Special Teams Coordinator, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Andre Morris, Spurs, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • John Rudzinski, Defensive Coordinator, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Trent Steelman, Quarterbacks, Eastern Kentucky University (U. S. Army)
  • Mike Thiessen, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Charlton Warren, Defensive Backs, Georgia (U. S. Air Force)
  • Mick Yokitis, Wide Receivers, United States Naval Academy (U. S. Navy)

Football Support Staff

  • Clayton Kendrick-Holmes, Chief of Staff/Football Operations, United States Military Academy (U. S. Navy)
  • LTC John Nawoichyk, Assistant AD/Military Operations, United States Military Academy (U. S. Army)
  • Omar Nelson, Director of Player Development, United States Naval Academy (U. S. Navy)
  • Capt. Ross Pospisil, Director of Player Development, United States Naval Academy (U. S. Marines Corps)
  • CPT Blake Powers, Admission Support, United States Military Academy (U. S. Army)
  • CPT Zachary Reichert, Assistant Director of Football Operations, United States Military Academy (U. S. Army)
  • Steve Senn, Director of Recruiting, United States Air Force Academy (U. S. Air Force)
  • Jordan Simmons, Strength & Conditioning, Nevada (U. S. Army)
  • Mike Sullivan, Director of Recruiting, United States Military Academy (U. S. Army)
  • Rusty Whitt, Football Strength & Conditioning Coach, Troy University (U. S. Army)
  • Nick Zinani, Sports Performance Coordinator, Wake Forest University (U. S. Army)
  • Jake Zweig, Director of Man Development, Illinois, (U. S. Navy)

University Leadership

Referees

  • Raymond Daniel, Official, Mid-American Conference (Army National Guard)
  • Steve Thielen, Official, Mid-American Conference (U. S. Army)

A whole new world – even in the pressbox Reply

Pandemic changes the way media goes about its job

By Al Lesar

Sitting in a big-time college football pressbox during a pandemic is a lot like sitting in a big-time college football pressbox any other time.
Except there were a lot fewer media types. And no hotdogs. And no pressbox announcer. And no in-person interviews, all Zoom. And that lousy mask.

Tennessee mascot Smokey reminds the media to wear a mask.

Over the course of three decades, I became comfortable with transitioning my workspace to pressboxes in many different parts of the country. No big deal, the game’s the same – only the buffet changes.

Three years ago, I hopped off that merry-go-‘round. It was time. I’d had enough of deadline-crunching challenges every week (by the way, in 38 years I never missed a deadline – not many journalists can say that).

When I had to have an opinion on a game that wasn’t finished, so that I could send my story as soon as the game clock hit 0:00, there could be some pressure involved.

I remember at least three or four really close games in which I had the first five or six paragraphs of my story written three different ways so that when the outcome was finally decided, I could use the one that fit the circumstances the best and pray that I remembered to delete the other two possibilities. I didn’t want to make a goof like that and pray that an attentive but overworked editor would save my keister.

Anyway, through the last three autumns of retirement, I discovered that life goes on outside the football stadium. Now, I can watch a very competitive game that started at 8 p.m. on television and have a tinge of empathy for the poor schlubs who have to get that story in at the buzzer.

Then an opportunity came along to augment some coverage with the University of Tennessee’s home football and basketball games. I’m always looking to grow, so I thought this would be interesting.

A couple weeks ago was my first visit to a pressbox since a bad Notre Dame team lost to Southern Cal by 18 at the Coliseum, in a really scary part of Los Angeles.

I was there in L.A. when an earthquake a few weeks earlier made the pressbox structurally unsound, so we had to sit in the stands on a really cold night I was there when police had to escort writers to their cars well after the crowd had cleared to ensure safety. I was there late one night when the gas station we parked at earlier in the day was locked and chained when we finally returned. Shockingly, a guy came out of nowhere, unlocked the gate and even washed the dew off our windshield. He earned a $20 tip.

Anyway, the Vols’ game against Missouri was my next first challenge a couple weeks ago. Noon start. Beautiful day. Passed the pre-entry health screening with a 96.9-degree temperature check (no wonder I was chilly).

The pandemic forced more than 80,000 tickets to go unsold. With just 21,000-plus attending, traffic was hardly a concern. Tailgates weren’t encouraged.

Most local news outlets – television, radio, newspapers and whoever – normally would be allotted multiple credentials for the pressbox. This season, it’s one per entity in most cases. The News Sentinel was allowed two seats.

With the checkerboard in the background, the media gets game-ready.

Media members – covering the Vols as well as Mizzou – were scattered throughout the large space. The six-foot social distance was readily enforced.

I can hear readers moaning that media folk are spoiled with the hotdogs or other free food available to them.

The Tennessee media was relying on the legendary snack food Moon Pie for sustenance.

Once the writing process has begun, having the pressbox announcer detail the breakdown of every play in the second half – players involved, down, distance, result – is necessary to keep up with the game by multi-tasking.

Fortunately for me, UT had a blowout win. All that needed to be plugged in as the final seconds ticked away were a few cumulative stats and the final score.

Try doing that – as well as filing two more versions of the same story with new quotes and a unique approach – while having glasses fog up at least a couple times every minute.

By the second revision, two hours after the game ended as the hard-core media guys were the only ones left hammering out that one last story, the mask was ripped from my ears and laid next to my computer.
Never was an issue before. Hope it won’t be for long.
It’s a whole new world – even in a pressbox.

Al Lesar, a longtime FWAA member, retired from the South Bend Tribune in 2017, after more than 32 years there. He’s now a freelance writer in the Knoxville area.