The University of Kentucky football team has earned the 2020 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award, it was announced today. The Wildcats defeated Vanderbilt, 38-35, on Saturday, just two days after losing beloved offensive line coach John Schlarman to a two-year battle with cancer.
“The bottom line is to honor John by playing the way he coached, lived his life, and we constantly talked about the tenacity that he had, the toughness that he had, but also when he was a player he was extremely technical and very detailed,” Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said after the win.
Kentucky lined up for the first offensive play from scrimmage without a player manning the left guard spot, which was Schlarman’s position during his playing days with the Wildcats from 1994-97. Vanderbilt declined the delay of game penalty, and Landon Young was sent on the field afterward to complete the Wildcats’ offensive line — while wearing No. 65, which had been Schlarman’s number.
Kentucky players wore “JS” decals on their helmets as well.
Schlarman was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma in the summer of 2018. He coached throughout his treatments and did not miss a game until Kentucky’s previous two contests before Saturday. Stoops gave Schlarman the game ball after an Oct. 17 win at Tennessee, which was Schlarman’s last game.
A four-year starter while with the Wildcats, Schlarman earned first-team all-freshman honors from the Southeastern Conference in 1994, was chosen as the team’s most outstanding offensive lineman in 1995 and 1996, and was named All-SEC as a senior in 1997. He made the SEC Academic Honor Roll three times and, in 1997, became a finalist for Academic All-America.
The Kentucky native got his college coaching start at his alma mater as a graduate assistant from 2000-02, then returned when Stoops got hired in 2013.
Schlarman was a nominee for the Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award in 2018.
On Saturday, Kentucky honored its beloved coach the best way it knew how: by rushing for 308 yards on 35 carries in a winning effort.
“We lost a member of our family. We lost our coach and someone who was a father figure to every offensive lineman that’s come through this program,” Young said after the game. “One of the toughest, greatest men I’ve met in my life. Having the opportunity to wear his number was a blessing for me.”
The Courage Award was first presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) in 2002. 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. The winner of the award will be included in festivities during Capital One Orange Bowl week and receive his trophy at an on-field presentation.
Previous winners of the Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award are Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson (2019), SUNY Cortland linebacker Kyle Richard (2018), Wisconsin safety D’Cota Dixon (2017), Pitt running back James Conner (2016), Miami offensive lineman Hunter Knighton (2015), Duke offensive lineman Laken Tomlinson (2014), San Jose State defensive lineman Anthony Larceval (2013), Clemson wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez (2012), Michigan State offensive lineman Arthur Ray Jr. (2011), Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand (2010), the University of Connecticut football team (2009), Tulsa’s Wilson Holloway (2008), 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).
About the Orange Bowl
The Orange Bowl is a 380-member, primarily-volunteer non-profit sports organization that promotes and serves the South Florida community. With its primary mission since being created in 1935 to bring tourism to South Florida through an annual football game and events, it has also maintained a legacy of charitable contributions and community outreach. Orange Bowl community outreach efforts are comprised of four pillars: youth sports, fundraising and community events, academic programs and scholarships, and legacy gifts. The Orange Bowl features a year-round schedule of events culminating with the Capital One Orange Bowl on Jan. 2, 2021. The Orange Bowl also led a community-wide effort to bring the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship to South Florida. It will be played on Jan. 11, 2021 (2021miami.com). For more information on the 2020-2021 Orange Bowl events, including promotional and volunteer opportunities through the Ambassador Program presented by Panera Bread, log on to orangebowl.org or follow @OrangeBowl on social media.
Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of 1,200 men and women who cover college football. 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 and its annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve Richardson at [email protected].
2020 Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominees
- Oct. 28: Jon Dietzen, Wisconsin
- Nov. 4: Alex Charlton, Arkansas State
- Nov. 11: D’Eriq King, Miami
- Nov. 18: Kentucky football team