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.
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.'”