Longhorn Blaine Irby Nominated for Athletic Courage Award

Senior tight end Blaine Irby is a finalist for the award that honors a student-athlete who displays courage on or off the field, including overcoming an injury.

Texas Longhorn tight end Blaine Irby has been named a finalist for the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award, the Football Writers Association of America has announced.

Irby, a senior from Camarillo, Calif., has returned to football after a gruesome injury three years ago left doctors uncertain whether he would ever walk normally again.

Once considered the heir-apparent in Texas’ line of talented tight ends, Irby’s career was derailed in September 2008 when he suffered a devastating knee injury when hit by a Rice defender.

Kenny Boyd, Texas’ head athletic trainer, told the San Antonio Express-News the injury was “limb-threatening.” Irby’s knee was dislocated. The ACL, LCL, meniscus and surrounding cartilage were torn.

After surgery and rehab, Irby continued to suffer from nerve damage, which prevented his right foot from functioning properly.

Irby underwent three surgeries. The nerves didn’t begin to fire until December 2009, about 15 months after the injury. Irby had finally come to terms with not playing football again, but one day he suddenly felt a twitch in his right foot.

It took much more rehab, and Irby had to talk Texas coach Mack Brown into allowing him to play again, but he returned this fall.

“If you call having less than a 5 percent chance to walk normally and two years later returning to the field being a miracle, then I would say it was a miracle,” Boyd said.

Ironically, the Longhorns’ first game was against Rice. Irby started against the Owls, and he has played in Texas’ first fivegames. He had two catches for 12 against Oklahoma—his first receptions since the injury.

“I’m glad to be back,” Irby said. “It’s been a long process. It’s been a really long road, but I’m just glad to be back with my teammates.”

For the sixth year, the Football Writers Association of America and the Discover Orange Bowl will announce a weekly finalist for the Discover Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award each Wednesday during the season.

A blue-ribbon panel will determine the award’s recipient from those weekly finalists. The recipient of the Courage Award will be announced in December and presented with the trophy in conjunction with this year’s Discover Orange Bowl.

Blaine Irby grins at teammate Marquise Goodwin during the game against Oklahoma State. Photo courtesy UT Athletics.


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