DALLAS (FWAA) – Clemson defensive back/wide receiver Ray Ray McElrathbey is the winner of the 2006 FedEx Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award, which is annually given to a player, coach or support person in college football who displays courage, on or off the field.
McElrathbey, a redshirt freshman, saw most of his action on special teams this season. But he has undertaken the responsibility of caring for his 11- year-old brother, Fahmarr (now 12).
Ray Ray and Fahmarr's mother has a cocaine addiction; their father has a gambling addiction. The brothers' home life in Atlanta was not stable and both had spent time in foster care.
Ray Ray obtained temporary custody of Fahmarr and planned to support him with Pell grants, odd jobs and the monthly stipend for living off-campus.
After news of Ray Ray McElrathbey's situation was publicized, Clemson sought a waiver to allow a trust fund that would help McElrathbey care for his brother. The NCAA granted the waiver within 48 hours, citing the unique circumstances.
Also because of the waiver, Clemson coaches' families are allowed to help Ray Ray care for Fahmarr when it comes to transportation to and from school and other basic needs.
Ray Ray told The New York Times the NCAA's decision "lifted a little weight from my shoulders." But Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, among others, noted the heavy burden of responsibility Ray Ray had shouldered.
"I could not fathom a 19-year-old freshman being a father, going to school and playing college football," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. "I could not imagine at that age handling all the responsibilities that Ray Ray has done this year.
"It has been quite a story because I see the players, coaches and their families doing what they can to help Ray Ray and Fahmarr.
"Ray Ray is very deserving of this award from the Football Writers Association of America and the FedEx Orange Bowl."
Following the Tigers' bowl game, McElrathbey plans to be at the FedEx Orange Bowl, where he will be presented the Courage Award Trophy and will receive a donation from the Orange Bowl Foundation for the Fahmarr McElrathbey Trust.
McElrathbey was the team's special teams player of the week after recording four tackles against Florida Atlantic. He played defensive back the first 11 games, but moved to receiver before the regular- season finale against South Carolina. He will remain at receiver in the bowl game and next spring.
McElrathbey was selected by a blue-ribbon panel of FWAA members, who made their determination from a pool of nominees honored each week during the 2006 football season.
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 for the weekly award include displaying some sort of courageous act, on or off the field including, overcoming an injury or physical handicap, preventing a disaster and living through a lifetime of hardships.
Previous winners of the Courage Award are the Tulane football team (2005), Memphis' Haracio Colen (2004), San Jose State's Neil Parry (2003) and Toledo's William Bratton 2002).
The Orange Bowl Committee is a not-for- profit, 329-member, all-volunteer organization that exists as a self-sustaining, independent organization supporting and producing activities and events which enhance the image, economy, and culture of South Florida . Among the OBC core events are the Orange Bowl Festival, FedEx Orange Bowl and World-Class Halftime Show, the MetroPCS Orange Bowl Basketball Classic, the WaMu Orange Bowl Fan Fest presented by the City of Miami, the Budweiser Orange Bowl Tailgate Party, Boston Market Orange Bowl Youth Football Championships, Orange Bowl Cheer & Dance Championships, Orange Bowl Swim Classic, Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships and Orange Bowl Sailing Regatta Series.
The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization founded in 1941, consists of more than 900 men and women across North America who cover college football for a living. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include game day operations, major awards, a national poll and its annual All-America team.
2006 FedEx Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominees
• Sept. 20: Ray Ray McElrathbey, Clemson
• Sept. 27: Martel Van Zant, Oklahoma State
• Oct. 4: Terry Hoeppner, Indiana
• Oct. 11: Dan Howell, Washington
• Oct. 18: Eddie Martin, Navy
• Oct. 25: Bill Doba, Washington State
• Nov. 1: Jerry Kill, Southern Illinois
• Nov. 8: Carl Pendleton, Oklahoma
• Nov. 15: Mike Tepper, California
• Nov. 29: Carlos Garcia, Oregon State