Since 1996, the Disney Sports Spirit Award has been presented annually to college football’s most inspirational student-athlete, team or figure. The award will be presented for the 18th consecutive year Thursday, Dec. 12 during the ESPN live telecast of The Home Depot College Football Awards at Walt Disney World Resort in suburban Orlando, Fla.
While it is impossible to recognize all of the uplifting stories in collegiate athletics today, Disney Sports created the Disney Sports Spirit Award with the hopes of honoring college football’s most inspirational student-athlete, team or figure who has overcome extraordinary physical or emotional hardships or other challenges, while exhibiting a selfless nature and good sportsmanship.
Last year, Nate Boyer became the 17th recipient of the award. Boyer, University of Texas long snapper, was honored after earning a Bronze Star for his service with the U.S. Army Special Forces Unit and providing assistance to autistic children and Darfur refugees.
Boyer joined past honorees Daniel Huffman (1996), Dwight Collins (1997), Matt Hartl (1998), East Carolina University (1999), Hameen Ali (2000), the United States Service Academy football teams (2001), Dewayne White (2002), Neil Parry (2003), Tim Frisby (2004), the Tulane University football team (2005), University of Louisville band member Patrick Henry Hughes (2006), Zerbin Singleton (2007), Tim Tebow (2008), Mark Herzlich (2009), D.J. Williams (2010), Carson Tinker and the University of Alabama football team (2011).
Alabama was selected in 2011 for its extraordinary efforts to aid tornado victims and help rebuild the Tuscaloosa, Ala., community. The team ultimately brought much needed hope to the area before eventually earning the BCS National Championship in January 2012.
Williams, now a Green Bay Packers tight end, was selected in 2010 for his courage in overcoming a childhood fractured by an alcoholic, drug-addicted and abusive father. He used his personal struggle to raise awareness and inspire others to abandon troubled relationships and seek help.
In 2009, Herzlich, now a New York Giants linebacker, was selected after overcoming a rare form of bone cancer and helping inspire more than $120,000 in donations for cancer-related causes.
Tebow was chosen in 2008 because of his remarkable civic and humanitarian efforts for others around him and abroad.