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.
“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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
2020 Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominees
• Oct. 28: Jon Dietzen, Wisconsin
• Capital One Orange Bowl Courage Award