Cancer survivor and 2011 FWAA Courage Award winner signs as free agent with Dolphins

By Chris Solari
Lansing State Journal

After beating cancer, Arthur Ray’s odds-defying journey back to football will finally take him to the NFL.

The former Michigan State offensive lineman agreed to terms with the Miami Dolphins and will join the team’s rookie mini-camp that begins Friday in South Florida, his agent Paul Sheehy said Tuesday.

Ray, a Chicago native who is 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, is expected to be either a guard or center at the pro level. He started 14 games over the past two seasons at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., after being granted two extra seasons of eligibility by the NCAA in January 2013. He last played for MSU in 2011.

ffaw_redesignIn Miami this week, Ray will rejoin former Spartan teammate Tony Lippett, a cornerback/wide receiver taken by the Dolphins in Saturday’s fifth round. Former MSU tight end Dion Sims and punter Brandon Fields also are on the Dolphins’ active roster.

The camp will be a foot-in-the-door tryout for Ray, who went undrafted in the NFL draft over the weekend.

“I’m on the phone with my main man Dion Sims all the time. … Dion Sims is truly one of my best friends from Michigan State,” Ray said last week before the NFL draft. “We always talk about me and the process. We were just joking the other day about me possibly coming down to the Dolphins. I was just laughing with him, telling him, ‘Yeah, I wouldn’t mind backing up (starting center Mike) Pouncy’ and going down there and playing with Dion.”

It’s been a long and sometimes rocky path to the NFL for Ray, who turns 26 next month.

Ranked as one of the nation’s top offensive guards as part of Mark Dantonio’s first full MSU recruiting class in 2007, he was diagnosed with cancer in his right tibia in April of his senior year at Mount Carmel High in Chicago.

Ray underwent nine surgeries on his lower right leg and chemotherapy, battling bone infections and countless hours of rehabilitation on his leg while spending more than two years on crutches. He deferred his enrollment and didn’t begin classes at MSU until 2008. Dantonio and his staff honored their scholarship commitment.

In the spring of 2011, Ray was finally cleared to practice. During the Spartans’ opening game that August against Youngstown State, a tearful Ray received the starting assignment at left guard. He went on to play against Florida Atlantic and Indiana and received his only varsity letter at MSU, receiving the team’s “Biggie” Munn Most Inspirational Player Award at the team banquet.

Conquering cancer also earned Ray the Discover Orange Bowl/Football Writers Association of America’s Courage Award and was the Most Courageous Performance by the Big Ten in 2011.

Dantonio left Ray off MSU’s 2012 roster. Ray received a medical disqualification and finished his degree in communications that December before transferring to Division II Fort Lewis College, where he was a two-time captain and tore his meniscus in his right knee during the 2013 season. He returned to the field last fall and was a second-team All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference selection at left tackle.

Duke’s Tomlinson wins Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award, aspires to be a doctor

DALLAS Duke offensive guard Laken Tomlinson is the winner of the 2014 Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award.

Tomlinson, a 6-3, 330-pound senior from Chicago (Lane Tech), has started 51 consecutive games and has helped the Blue Devils (9-3) score 390 points this season, the third-most in program history. Duke’s offensive line leads the country in fewest tackles-for-loss per game allowed with just 3.33 and has surrendered just 13.0 sacks, tied for the 13th fewest in the nation.

Duke offensive guard Laken Tomlinson (center) accepts the Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award from Matt Morrall of the Orange Bowl and FWAA member David Hale of ESPN.com.

Duke offensive guard Laken Tomlinson (center) accepts the Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award from Orange Bowl Committee member Matt Morrall and FWAA member David Hale of ESPN.com.

But Tomlinson just making a college roster and winding up in Durham was a challenge. Duke’s current football captain offers a slightly different version of the “The Blind Side,” the famous story of Michael Oher, who came from a broken family in Memphis, lived in numerous foster homes, and eventually became a star offensive tackle at Ole Miss and went on to the NFL.

“I am both grateful and humbled to be honored by the Football Writers Association of America and the Orange Bowl with this award,” said Tomlinson, who will finish his Duke career against Arizona State in the Hyundai Sun Bowl on Dec. 27. “My mother has been the greatest influence on my life, and none of this recognition would be possible without her sacrifice, love and support.

“It means the world to me to make her proud. If not for her, I could still be in Jamaica, living a life of poverty. Every time I go home or have an opportunity to talk to my mother, she always tells me before she hangs up, ‘Laken, I love you and I’m extremely proud of you and everything that you do for our family. Keep doing what you are doing. The Lord has a plan for you, Laken.'”

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FWAA accepting weekly nominations for Courage Award

The FWAA is now accepting nominations for the 2014  FWAA/Orange Bowl Courage Award, which is annually given to a player, coach or support person in college football such as a trainer, cheerleader or a member of an athletic department’s staff.

The requirements for nomination for the weekly award include displaying some sort of courageous act (on or off the field). These would include overcoming an injury, sickness or physical handicap, preventing a disaster, or living through a lifetime of hardships.

At the end of 2014 season, a select group of FWAA members will choose the winner of the award who will be honored during the Orange Bowl Week.

Please email all nominations with supporting information to FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson at tigerfwaa@gmail.com

San Jose State’s Larceval receives FWAA Courage Award

Courage Award 2013

San Jose State’s Anthony Larceval (left), the 2013 winner of the FWAA’s Courage Award, joins 2012 Courage Award winner Daniel Rodriguez of Clemson after the award presentation at the Orange Bowl Coaches Luncheon on Jan. 2 in Miami. Photo by Ken Ruinard of the Anderson (S.C.) Mail Call.

From the San Jose Mercury News

MIAMI — Anthony Larceval is shaking a lot of hands, meeting a lot of people and his whereabouts are being constantly monitored by chauffeurs.

And the now former San Jose State defensive lineman is enjoying all of it.

“It’s been great,’ said Larceval, who on Thursday was formally awarded the Football Writers Association of America Courage Award at a luncheon previewing Friday’s Orange Bowl between Clemson and Ohio State.

“After going through such a tough year — probably the toughest of my young life — it’s been great,” he said. “It’s been awkward to be rewarded and recognized like this for such adversity, but I’ll take it.”

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