DALLAS (FWAA) - Hawaii's Brian Kajiyama is the first nominee for the FedEx Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award to be announced at the end of the 2007 season. Kajiyama, 30, is in his first season as a graduate assistant with the Warriors. A longtime Hawaii football fan, Kajiyama was born with cerebral palsy, but has accomplished more with the disability than many without the disability accomplish in a lifetime.
Kajiyama, who uses a wheelchair and speaks though a text-to-speech device, graduated with honors from Hawaii in 2003. He recently received his Masters of Education in guidance and counseling and is pursuing a PhD.
His work with the football program began after the dedicated fan became a regular attendee at practices. He later became a volunteer assistant, and in 2006 began handling the tedious duty of editing opponents' game film, making "cut-ups" for Hawaii's coaches. He was named a graduate assistant last spring, fulfilling a longtime dream.
As a graduate assistant, Kajiyama works with the defense, including preparing scouting reports and breaking down game film.
"People just see him as a kid out there in a wheelchair," Hawaii defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. "If they knew his effort and commitment, they'd see something else."
For the second straight year, the Football Writers Association of America and the FedEx Orange Bowl will announce a weekly nominee each Wednesday during the season. A blue-ribbon panel will determine the winner from all of the nominees. The winner of the FedEx Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award will be announced in December and be presented with the trophy.
The Courage Award was created by ESPN The Magazine's senior writer Gene Wojciechowski, also a FWAA member. 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.
Previous winners of the FWAA's Courage Award are 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).