DALLAS (FWAA) - Oklahoma State's Artrell Woods is the first nominee of 2008 for the FedEx Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award, to be announced at the end of the season. Woods, a sophomore receiver, is playing again after overcoming a spinal cord injury suffered 14 months ago.
When Woods suffered a dislocated and fractured vertebrae and a spinal cord injury during a weightlifting session July 13, 2007, doctors initially wondered whether he would walk again. A return to football wasn't part of the discussion.
Woods rolled an ankle while doing a standard step-up lift of about 185 pounds, causing the freakish injury. He lurched forward, hit his knees on the step, then fell backward. He suffered initial paralysis in one leg and was air-evacuated to an Oklahoma City hospital.
Woods underwent major surgery soon thereafter, and spent several weeks in a full-torso cast.
"The first few days after the accident, my goal was for him to walk again, to just have a normal life," Oklahoma State head athletic trainer Rob Hunt told The Oklahoman. "Football wasn't even an issue. Artie and I never talked about him playing football again."
Said Woods: "I actually felt like I was gonna be able to come back to football all along. Once I could feel my legs again, I felt like I'd come back."
The fracture was fused together during the surgery and has fully healed. Woods played in Oklahoma State's first two games. He suffered a minor knee injury last Saturday against Houston but is expected to return to action soon.
For the third 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 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).