DALLAS (FWAA) - Ohio State's Tyson Gentry is this week's nominee for the 2008 FedEx Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award, to be announced at the end of the season. Gentry, a senior from Sandusky, Ohio, suffered partial paralysis after he was injured during a spring practice in April 2006, but has remained a valued member of the team.
The walk-on punter was asked to help out as a receiver on the scout team. During a scrimmage, he suffered a broken C-4 vertebrae in his neck after catching a pass.
"I remember catching the ball and going a few steps to turn upfield, and the ball started to slip," Gentry told the Columbus Dispatch. "And I think I looked down to go to grab it, and just the way I was dragged to the ground - it wasn't even a hit, just throwing me down to the ground.
"I think the way my head went down, it kind of went to the side and that's pretty much how it happened."
After several surgeries, Gentry has movement in his head and shoulders, and partial movement in his arms.
He continues a rigorous therapy regimen - and has seen progress, regaining some feeling in different areas. Using a motorized wheelchair, Gentry continues as a member of the team, attending meetings, practices and games.
"Tyson is one of us," Ohio State receiver Brian Robiskie told the newspaper. "He always will be. His injury didn't change that."
Gentry, whose father also played at Ohio State, will be honored along with other Buckeyes seniors at the final home game vs. Michigan. He is on track to graduate with a degree in speech and hearing science next spring. His goal is to earn a master's degree and become a speech therapist.
Gentry is able to lift weights, and he's recently begun shooting pool with his teammates.
"I stay active and it keeps my mind going," Gentry told the newspaper.
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).
Celebrating its 75th anniversary, the Orange Bowl Committee is a not-for-profit, 333-member, primarily-volunteer organization. It is a self-sustaining, independent organization that supports and produces activities and events that enhance the image, economy and culture of South Florida. In addition to the 75th edition of the Orange Bowl Festival, which features a year-round schedule of events culminating with the FedEx Orange Bowl on January 1, the Orange Bowl Committee will host the 2009 FedEx BCS Championship Game on January 8. For more information on the 2008-09 Orange Bowl Festival and its events, including promotional and volunteer opportunities, visit orangebowl.org.