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.

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FWAA announces ‘Super 11’ sports information departments in 2014 season

ffaw_redesignDALLAS — The Football Writers Association of America has selected its sixth “Super 11” group of sports information departments deemed the best in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision for the 2014 season.

The winners: Auburn (SEC), Bowling Green (Mid-American Conference), Colorado (Pac-12), East Carolina (American Athletic Conference), Iowa State (Big 12), Nebraska (Big Ten), Pittsburgh (ACC), Rice (Conference USA) Rutgers (Big Ten), UNLV (Mountain West) and USC (Pac-12).

USC is a five-time winner of the award and Auburn, Bowling Green, Colorado, East Carolina, Nebraska, Pittsburgh and Rutgers are multiple winners. The committee honored Rutgers because of the exceptional work of former football Sports Information Director Jason Baum, who consistently provided exemplary service when he worked with the school’s athletic department.

New winners of the award are Iowa State, Rice and UNLV. Over the six-year period, the FWAA has honored 45 different schools.

More…

FBS Pre-Season Media Days

Here are the dates and locations of pre-season football media days upcoming this summer:

Atlantic Coast Conference: July 19-21, Pinehurst Resort, North Carolina

American Athletic Conference:   August 2-4,  Hyatt Regency, Newport, Rhode Island

Big Ten Conference:  July 30-31, Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, Chicago 

Big 12 Conference: July 20-21, The Omni, Dallas

Conference USA: July 21-22, Boca Resort, Boca Raton, Fla.

Mid-American Conference:  July 28-29, Ford Field, Detroit

Mountain West Conference:  July 28-29, The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas

Pac 12:  July 30-31, Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank, Calif.

Southeastern: July 13-16, Wynfrey Hotel, Hoover, Alabama

Sun Belt: July 19-20 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans

Bud Withers retires from Seattle Times 1

Bud Withers

Bud Withers

FWAA member Bud Withers announced his retirement on Friday April 10 with the following e-mail blast to friends and colleagues:

Hey folks: Just a note to say that this is my last day of work at the Seattle Times. I’m retiring after 45 years in this biz, and it’s mostly been a blast. I’m able to go out on my own terms, which in this industry these days, is a distinct blessing. 

I don’t plan to disappear, but my e-mail address is changing to casabudman@gmail.com. My cell remains 206-794-4027. I’ve enjoyed working with and around you, and if you’re in this neck of the woods, don’t hesitate to look me up. I know where the good bars are . . .

Cheers,

Bud Withers

Click here to read some of Bud’s recent stories for the Seattle Times.

 

President’s column: Vote for the FWAA 75th Anniversary All-America Team

ffaw_redesign

By Lee Barfknecht
FWAA President

OMAHA — “Happy Anniversary!’’

It’s time for all members of the Football Writers Association of America to celebrate because this year marks our 75th season of existence.

We are taking advantage of this special year to highlight our organization and the sport we follow with some newsworthy events.

The biggest?

FWAA 2015 President Lee Barfknecht.

FWAA 2015 President Lee Barfknecht.

All members will get to vote on a 75-year anniversary All-America team. With our organization’s start in 1944, this coincides with what is defined as “the modern era of college football,’’ which is from the latter stages of World War II to the present.

Three 25-man units will be chosen (first, second and third teams). To be eligible, honorees must have been a first-team FWAA All-American.

The all-time list — compiled by Ted Gangi and Josh Yonis, and with thanks to our nation’s sports information directors and the College Football Hall of Fame — is on our website in easy-to-read form and with strong detail.

Once the membership-vote deadline has been reached, a panel of past presidents, current board members and winners of our Bert McGrane Award will be asked to tabulate votes, review the results and arrange the teams.

This is going to be a sparkling argument-starter and conversation piece.

Writers and broadcasters can use it for multiple story ideas. Meanwhile, school, bowl and network TV folks can turn it into promotional pieces for their entities.

Those of us who love football and history are drooling over how this will turn out. Competition will ensue at the highest level.

Please keep an eye out for notice coming soon on when and how to vote. We hope to reveal the three teams in early summer — a great time for stories considering the year-round thirst in this country for football news.

In and around the announcement of those teams, we plan a series of stories on pillars of the FWAA — people who have had great impact on the sport in terms of how it was played, how it was coached, how it was covered and how it has been promoted.

Another way we will note our anniversary year is with a new logo.

It’s a simple and clean addition of a “75th Anniversary’’ banner to our current logo, in pigskin colors and no-nonsense lettering. It should appear on our website soon, and perhaps on some clothing.

Something else to keep watch for is a new member portal.

The FWAA and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association are partnering to create a one-stop payment site for both organizations that syncs up with the school year, plus some other features to make things more user-friendly.

Again, keep the 75th-anniversary All-America team voting in mind. It should be an energizing exercise to take part in.

Max Maisel memorial service 2

On behalf of Meg and our daughters, I want to thank everyone in the FWAA community who has reached out to us over the last three weeks since our son Max went missing. We presume he drowned on Feb. 22. The care and concern of so many writers and SIDs across the country has helped us cope with the unfathomable.

We are having a memorial service and a celebration of Max’s life on Friday, March 27 at Congregation Bnai Israel in Bridgeport, CT. If anyone is interested in attending, please contact me at Ivan.Maisel@gmail.com.

Thanks,

Ivan Maisel