Iowa State TE Chase Allen nominated for Courage Award Reply

By Matt Fortuna

DALLAS — Iowa State’s Chase Allen is this week’s nominee for the 2020 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award. Allen has overcome a number of physical setbacks both on and off the field, including being hit by a car, to become a key starter for the No. 13 Cyclones.

“You always wonder how good a player you’ll be after you recover from things like that, but I really never doubted anything,” Allen told The Des Moines Register. “Injuries happened early in my career. Maybe I just got them out of the way early.”

While walking to the football complex during the summer of his freshman year in 2016, Allen was hit by a car. He needed 107 stitches. Once he recovered, just before that season, he had a bout with the mumps, which then led to viral meningitis. He lost 20 pounds from the toll that the infection took on his body.

The 6-foot-7, 240-pound tight end went on to play in all 13 games and start nine as a redshirt freshman in 2017, earning second-team All-Big 12 honors. The following season, in 2018, Allen was forced to miss five games because of an abdominal injury.

Chase Allen

Allen rebounded in 2019 to again play in all 13 games, starting five, earning second-team All-Big 12 honors for the second time.

The Nixa, Mo., native has been named first-team Academic All-Big 12 in each of the past three seasons. Allen earned his mechanical engineering degree this past spring, and he is pursuing a graduate degree in industrial and manufacturing systems. Additionally, he is the president of Iowa State’s student-athlete advisory leadership committee and a candidate for the Senior CLASS Award.

Allen has started five games in his redshirt senior season this fall, recording 13 receptions for 173 yards and two touchdowns for the 6-2 Cyclones, who travel to No. 17 Texas for a Friday morning tilt. Iowa State has started 6-1 in conference play for the first time in program history. Allen has 42 career catches for 463 yards and four touchdowns.

“We’re having a blast this year,” Allen said this week. “I hope you guys are having as much fun watching us as we are playing, because this is the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.”

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
  • Nov. 4: Alex Charlton, Arkansas State
  • Nov. 11: D’Eriq King, Miami
  • Nov. 18: Kentucky football team
  • Nov. 25: Chase Allen, Iowa State

Kentucky team nominated for Courage Award Reply

DALLAS — The Kentucky football team is this week’s nominee for the 2020 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award. The Wildcats beat Vanderbilt, 38-35, on Saturday, just two days after offensive line coach John Schlarman died after a two-year battle with cancer.

“The bottom line is to honor John by playing the way he coached, lived his life, and we constantly talked about the tenacity that he had, the toughness that he had, but also when he was a player he was extremely technical and very detailed,” Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said after the win.

Kentucky lined up for the first offensive play from scrimmage without a player manning the left guard spot, which was Schlarman’s position during his playing days with the Wildcats from 1994 to 1997. Vanderbilt declined the delay of game penalty, and Landon Young was sent on the field afterward to complete the Wildcats’ offensive line — while wearing No. 65, which had been Schlarman’s number.

Kentucky players wore “JS” on their helmets as well.

Schlarman was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma in the summer of 2018. He coached throughout his treatments and did not miss a game until Kentucky’s previous two contests before Saturday. Stoops gave Schlarman the game ball after an Oct. 17 win at Tennessee, which was Schlarman’s last game.

A four-year starter while with the Wildcats, Schlarman earned first-team all-freshman honors from the SEC in 1994, was chosen as the team’s most outstanding offensive lineman in 1995 and 1996, and was named All-SEC as a senior in 1997. He made the SEC Academic Honor Roll three times and, in 1997, became a finalist for Academic All-America.

The Kentucky native got his college coaching start at his alma mater as a graduate assistant from 2000 to 2002, then returned when Stoops was hired in 2013.

Schlarman was a nominee for the Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award in 2018.

On Saturday, Kentucky honored its beloved coach the best way it knew how: by rushing for 308 yards on 35 carries in a winning effort.

“We lost a member of our family. We lost our coach and someone who was a father figure to every offensive lineman that’s come through this program,” Young said after the game. “One of the toughest, greatest men I’ve met in my life. Having the opportunity to wear his number was a blessing for me.”

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

John Heisler to receive FWAA’s Bert McGrane Award 1

DALLAS Long-time Notre Dame Sports Information Director John Heisler, now holding a similar position at the University of Central Florida, has been named the recipient of the Football Writers Association of America’s Bert McGrane Award for 2021.

John Heisler

The McGrane Award is presented to an FWAA member in recognition of contributions to the FWAA and college football. McGrane was a sportswriter and editor at the Des Moines Register for 45 years and served as the FWAA’s Executive Director from the early 1940s until 1973. This is the FWAA’s highest honor and equivalent to an association’s Hall of Fame.

Heisler is the 48th recipient of the Bert McGrane Award, which started in 1974 and was first awarded to Charley Johnson of the Minneapolis Star.

“I can’t think of anything that’s been any more meaningful to me,” Heisler said. “I say that because it represents hundreds of relationships over a long period of time, and I hope it means we built some trust, could share some institutional knowledge when it was appropriate, and did at least a few things right in terms of working with the media. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Heisler, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, is a native of South Bend and returned home shortly after his college days. He learned his trade first under SID Bill Callahan at Missouri and later under Roger Valdiserri at Notre Dame. Both the late Callahan and Valdiserri were long-time FWAA members, with Valdiserri still residing in South Bend.

Heisler started working at Notre Dame in 1978 in the SID office and was the award-winning SID from 1988-2003. Thereafter, Heisler rose further up the ladder in the athletic department as an assistant and associate athletic director and was involved in numerous jobs in communications/broadcasting at Notre Dame. He was also editor and frequent contributor to the highly respected “Strong of Heart,” Notre Dame’s annual holiday book of features on Irish athletics. A member of the CoSIDA Hall of Fame, Heisler has claimed numerous awards and written and edited several other books about Notre Dame sports and its coaches.

“John was a fixture at Notre Dame and helped make the Sports Information Office in South Bend one of the best in the country for a number of years, actually a few decades,” said FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson. “John has been of great help with FWAA members in a number of ways and provided a path for others in the SID profession to follow. He still does in his relocation to Florida.”

Heisler will receive the Bert McGrane plaque at a later time. His name will be a part of the permanent McGrane presentation at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. Furthermore, a small plate with his name also will be placed on the master board of former McGrane recipients at the National Football Foundation (NFF) offices in Irving, Texas.

Getting to Know John Heisler

Question: Who were your mentors and what did they contribute to your career?

Heisler: “Growing up in South Bend, I covered some high school sports part-time and as a teenager got to know Joe Doyle, Bill Moor, Woody Miller and others on the South Bend Tribune staff. I decided to attend the University of Missouri because of its Journalism School, and that was the best decision I ever made. I arrived there at the perfect time and Mizzou SID Bill Callahan provided me with some fabulous opportunities that I probably did not deserve. At the time he did not have a full-time assistant, so from my freshman year on I had all sorts of chances to be involved. Bill knew everybody in the Big Eight, so through him I became good friends with many of his newspaper and SID cronies — Maury White, Bill Beck, Don Bryant and so many more. Those were the ‘70s, the days of Friday night press parties and Skywriters tours. Then Bill often would have a social gathering at his home after home football games (inviting all the media in town to cover the game) and that was another wonderful chance to meet people and learn the business.

I was at Missouri at a time when there was an incredible collection of sports-writing talent in school at the same time as me — Steve Richardson, Joel Bierig, Jeff Rude, Lonnie Wheeler, Dave Stirt, Tim Sullivan, Cal Fussman, Tom Shatel, Dennis Dodd and Mickey Spagnola and many more. That very quickly helped me understand where the bar stood in terms of being able to write well because it was a competitive environment. I subscribed to six newspapers — two each in Columbia, St. Louis and Kansas City. That’s how you kept up day to day when web sites were still some time down the road. I also spent two years as the summer sports intern for the Kansas City Star — what better way to learn the newspaper business.

“When I went to Notre Dame in 1978, the football team was coming off a national championship season and Joe Montana was still the quarterback, so there was no shortage of interest. Working for Roger Valdiserri, I again had the chance to meet all sorts of people in the college athletic business and, thanks to our football schedule, we played everywhere in the country and worked with media all over. There was seldom a dull moment.”

Q: What are some of the stories you have done that have been the most rewarding to you?  Be expansive. These could be the best two three or more over the years.

Heisler: “I got into all this because I loved to write. Unfortunately, the more time I spent in sports information, the fewer opportunities I had to write. But I carved out a few. The students at Notre Dame for years did a football review magazine, but they stopped for a few years in the ‘80s, so we picked it up and did it ourselves. It was great fun. Then beginning in 2010 we did an annual holiday book titled “Strong of Heart” — feature stories about people connected to Notre Dame athletics who had overcome some sort of obstacle. I wrote many of them myself and loved the ability to kind of go back where I started. There was nothing more satisfying that creating a profile of someone and feeling like you absolutely captured that person the way you wanted to portray them.”

Q: Best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?

Heisler: “I remember someone leaving Notre Dame and moving out of state and being disappointed because all sorts of people they did business with no longer connected with them. It taught me that, maybe especially at a place like Notre Dame, lots of people want to be your friend because of the job you have. So, if you value those relationships, you need to nurture them beyond the working aspect of it — and make sure people understand you truly care about them beyond just helping them do their jobs.”

Q: What have you seen change most in the SID profession over the last 25-30 years?

Heisler: “The technology quite obviously is the difference between night and day. There’s a whole generation of media who don’t know what it meant to have both a morning and evening news cycle. The technology makes so many things easier, yet it also makes it simple to skip the personal connections. It may be simple to email or text, but I remind myself not to forget to pick up the cell phone and call people. I miss the time we all spent with each other beyond the games. The virus hasn’t exactly helped that.

“It’s different now because virtually every game is televised or streamed — and results and highlights are instantaneous. But even if we all know every statistic about any given athlete, there’s no substitute for the in-depth feature story that explains what that person is really all about. And when one of us in our business can help you with some background to make one of those stories into something special, that’s when it all pays off for everybody.”

Q: Best interview you ever had and why?

Heisler: “Quite some time before Lou Holtz’s third season at Notre Dame, I suggested to him that we consider a book on what it’s like day to day to be the football coach in South Bend. For all the things that had been written about the job and how difficult and pressure-packed it supposedly was, no one had explained exactly why that was. I had never done anything like that before, but Lou bought into the idea. It became a national championship season, and the book became a best-seller. And it was fascinating sitting down with him to talk at least twice a week that fall. It was football, motivation, how to deal with people and all sorts of other subjects. And it was magical to see how the light went on with Lou the minute I turned on the tape recorder.” 

Q: What are your hobbies/passions?

Heisler: “I became a sports fan at an early age. As a teenager my combination birthday/Christmas present from my parents was a single Notre Dame football season ticket and another for the bleachers for Notre Dame basketball. I’d go by myself and loved every minute of it. I loved any sort of sports publication — media guide, game program, magazine, book, whatever — and I saved them all. As my wife would be quick to add, it got a little out of control. Throw in bobble-heads and autographed baseballs and all sorts of other sports memorabilia and our basement was a bit of a museum.”

Q: Do you have any sports mementos in your house? Such as an old typewriter, the press pass from the first game you attended, an old glove?

Heisler: “I saved tons of ticket stubs and press credentials over the years. My mother’s younger sister lived for many years in San Francisco, and when I was about 10 they went to Joe DiMaggio’s restaurant. On the back of the menu was a classic photo of DiMaggio and a perfect white area beneath for an autograph (and his calligraphy was perfect). I was never particularly a Yankee fan, but that was an item I’ve always treasured.”

Q: Interesting stories with writers?

Heisler: “Back in the ‘80s Mark Blaudschun worked for the Dallas Morning News. He wanted to write a big-picture story about how athletics at Notre Dame worked. He came to town and we set him up to speak with Gerry Faust, Digger Phelps, Gene Corrigan and Father Ned Joyce —maybe all in one day. My wife and I didn’t have kids yet and lived in a condo not far from campus and so we invited Mark over for dinner. Mark on occasion would mention all that and seemed to express some amazement over how it all happened — but I always thought, well, that’s why we’re there — to facilitate those things as best we could.”

“About that same time Pete Alfano worked for the New York Times. During Gerry Faust’s years we had our share of ups and downs. And it seemed like every year by late October we would have lost just enough games that Pete’s editors wanted him to come to town and write something about how football was going at Notre Dame. I used to laugh and remember the 1978 Alan Alda movie “Same Time, Next Year.” I kidded Pete that we should just make a permanent hotel reservation for him in South Bend for about two-thirds of the way through the season because he ended up coming our way about that time every year.

“In 1993, No. 1 Florida State came for a mid-November game in South Bend. It was the biggest late-season football game in Notre Dame history. It was the first time ESPN Game Day went on the road. It seemed like the entire college football world came to town. We quickly ran out of space in the press box, and we ended up putting maybe 40 media on chairs at the top of rows in the stands. We had a great advantage because our team had an open date the week before, so we had the chance to get organized. We set up a full-blown press area where we did interviews all week long, arranged a working press area and had lunch there every day. Then, on Thursday night before the game, Lou Holtz invited all the media to his house for barbeque and beers. It was an amazing week in many ways, but I always took pride in thinking we were able to handle most of the challenges that came our way that week. And then the game was a classic.”

Q: What has the FWAA meant to you over the years?

Heisler: “As a 20-something in the business (and even a bit earlier than that) I idolized so many of the writers who covered college football. And then it was even better when I had the chance to meet and work with so many over the years. I probably should write a book about all those memories over the last four decades.”

 

Miami’s D’Eriq King nominated for Courage Award

DALLAS — Miami’s D’Eriq King is this week’s nominee for the 2020 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award. King, a redshirt senior quarterback, lost his father this past winter to a heart attack and saw his mother undergo treatments for breast cancer throughout the last year.

D’Eriq King

“I could always count you to hold me down!” King wrote in a Twitter post when his father died. “The way you loved your family and your will to do anything for us was second to none. The way you loved my mom showed me what pure love was.”

King had tallied 6,346 yards of total offense and 78 total touchdowns from 2016-19 while at Houston. He transferred to Miami after the 2019 season, in need of a fresh start. But this past year has presented no shortage of challenging moments off the field.

In November 2019, King’s mother, Cassandra, was diagnosed with breast cancer. On Feb. 15, just before the Hurricanes were set to start spring practice, King’s father, Eric, died of a heart attack at the age of 48. He had been a youth coach in the Houston area, and his loss was devastating to his family and community.

D’Eriq King in action against the Pitt Panthers on Oct. 17.
(Photo by Eric Espada/University of Miami Athletics)

The COVID-19 pandemic had sent players home from Miami in mid-March, which served as a blessing in disguise for King, as he got to spend more time with his grieving family.

His mother was declared cancer-free on July 20. Two months later, King took the field with the Hurricanes for the first time.

The 5-foot-11, 202-pound King has helped lift Miami to a 6-1 record and a No. 9 ranking in the AP poll. The team captain has completed better than 63 percent of his passes for 1,831 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has added 406 rushing yards and two more scores on the ground.

On Friday at NC State, King led a fourth-quarter comeback and finished with 536 yards of total offense and five passing touchdowns. He earned multiple national player of the week honors for his efforts, and he became the first player since 2018 to throw for 400 yards and five touchdowns while also rushing for 100 yards in the same game.

The person who last accomplished that feat? Also King, while at Houston.

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

O’Donnell named recipient of 2020 Armed Forces Merit Award

FORT WORTH, Texas — Bluefield College defensive lineman and military veteran Collin O’Donnell has been selected as the ninth recipient of Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).

Collin O’Donnell

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 within the realm of the sport of football.”

Brant Ringler, executive director of the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, and Doug Lesmerises, FWAA president, announced Wednesday during a teleconference that O’Donnell was selected from a list of 41 nominations (38 individuals and three programs) as the 2020 recipient by a nine-person committee made up of FWAA members and Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl officials.

“Collin has distinguished himself as a collegiate football player, an Army veteran and now as a businessman,” said Ringler. Lesmerises added “O’Donnell joins a list of remarkable individuals and programs that have been recipients of the Armed Forces Merit Award. With so many deserving individuals and programs, it is difficult to honor only one recipient annually.”

O’Donnell, who maintains a 3.4 grade point average. is a captain on the Bluefield College football team. In his first two seasons with the Rams, 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.

Serving in the U.S Army from 2013-2016, O’Donnell was injured in Afghanistan and 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.

Since arriving at Bluefield College in the Summer 2018, O’Donnell has demonstrated constant leadership to the Ram football team as well as service to the community.

  • 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.
  • From his start in 2018 to spring 2019, O’Donnell volunteered at nearly every community service event that football has offered, as well as in his spare time.
  • In 2019, on Martin Luther King Day, O’Donnell and several players help pack food boxes at the Bluefield Mission for the local hungry people of Bluefield, Va. and W. Va.
  • In 2019. Collin took part in a local church organization – The Mercer County (W.Va.) Hunger Challenge to feed displaced Ugandan children, where he and his football teammates prepared more than 1,500 meal packages.
  • In the fall of 2019, O’Donnell took part in the Tazewell County Business Challenge for entrepreneurs seeking to open a new business. He proposed an extensive business plan and his idea for a coffee and bake shop located in downtown Bluefield, Va. O’Donnell won the small business grant and opened his Coffee and Bake shop called “The Grind” this past May 2020. The recorded town session for the business pitch is available on the Tazewell County (Va.) Business Challenge Facebook page, Collin presented second.
  • O’Donnell received Bluefield College’s 2019 Champion of Character award from the Mid-South Conference.

Armed Forces Merit Award

Army West Point coach and military service veteran Mike Viti was the 2019 recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA. A graduate of West Point, Viti is in his fifth 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).

Kansas State and its football team were honored in November 2017 as the sixth recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA 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.

ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, owns and operates a portfolio of 35 collegiate sporting events nationwide. The roster includes four early-season college football games, 17 college bowl games, 11 college basketball events, a college softball event and two college award shows, which accounts for approximately 400 hours of live programming, reaches nearly 64 million viewers and attracts over 800,000 attendees each year. With satellite offices in more than 10 markets across the country, ESPN Events builds relationships with conferences, schools and local communities, as well as providing unique experiences for teams and fans. For more information, visit the official website, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube pages.

The Football Writers Association of America (FWAA, http://www.sportswriters.net) consists of the men and women across North America who cover college football for a living. Founded in 1941, 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 an All-America team. Through its website, the FWAA works to improve communication among all those who work within the game. The FWAA also sponsors scholarships for aspiring writers and an annual writing contest. Behind the leadership of President Matt Fortuna of The Athletic, Executive Director Steve Richardson and a board of veteran journalists, the FWAA continues grow and work to help college football prosper at all levels. There are now over 1,400 members.

Bluefield College is a Baptist liberal arts college in Bluefield, Virginia. Founded in 1922 with an enrollment over 1,000, Bluefield College offers 22 majors with bachelor and master’s degree offered. Nestled in the scenic Appalachian Mountains, Bluefield College’s 82-acre campus is about 150 feet from the state line between Virginia and West Virginia.

Media Contacts

  • Tim Simmons, Armed Forces Merit Award Coordinator, 720/244-6580, bfishinc@aol.com
  • Steve Richardson, Football Writers Association of America, 214/870-6516, tiger@fwaa.com
  • Drew Harris, Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, 254/716-8573, drew@firstpitchpr.com
  • Bob Redd, Bluefield College, 276/326-4342, rredd@bluefield.edu

Alex Charlton, former aide to two programs, nominated for Capital One Orange Bowl Courage Award

DALLAS – Alex Charlton is this week’s nominee for the 2020 Capital One Orange Bowl Courage Award. Charlton, a former Midwestern State graduate assistant and Arkansas State volunteer defensive analyst, took a leave from football to join the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic as a nurse.

“There were many times I just found myself holding somebody’s hand who just needed that moment of support,” Charlton told The Athletic this summer, “to not feel like they’re alone in a hospital with all these people walking around with all this gear on.”

Charlton had been a student assistant, player personnel assistant and graduate assistant at Kansas. He enrolled in nursing school at UMKC in 2015, while helping out as a coach at local high schools. He became a GA at Division II Midwestern State in Wichita Falls, Texas after the 2019 season.

In the spring, Charlton left his job to work as a nurse in New York. He worked 12-hour shifts, seeing things that no man or woman should have to see.

In June, with daily cases in New York having fallen from around 5,000 to roughly 1,000, Charlton returned to his home in Kansas, and then to his day job at Midwestern State.

By late July, Charlton had left for a job at Arkansas State. Just two weeks later, he left for Ennis, Texas to work as a COVID-19 response team nurse.

“Football will always be there and that’s my future,” Charlton said during an ESPN College GameDay feature on Sept. 26. “But right now I need to see this through and do what I can to help.”

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
Nov. 4: Alex Charlton, Arkansas State

Related link:
Capital One Orange Bowl Courage Award