Disney Sports Spirit Award and The Home Depot College Football Awards Show

Filed in: College Sports, Disney Sports Spirit Award, The Home Depot College Football Awards Show

The Home Depot College Football Awards are an annual awards show at which many of college football’s major awards are handed out. The show is held at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Ga. and is shown live on ESPN. Along with position-specific awards, The Home Depot College Football Awards also features the live presentation of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA) Contribution to College Football Award; The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award; The Allstate AFCA Good Works Team; the student-athletes selected to the Walter Camp All-America Team; and Play of the Year as voted on live by viewers.

Awards Presented at the Home Depot College Football Awards:

Disney Sports Spirit Award
Most Inspirational Figure in College Football
 Chuck Bednarik Award
College Defensive Player of the Year
 Fred Biletnikoff Award
Nation’s Outstanding College Receiver
 Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award
Nation’s Outstanding Placekicker
 Ray Guy Award
College Punter of the Year
 Maxwell Award
College Player of the Year
 Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award
Nation’s Best Quarterback
 Outland Trophy
Nation’s Most Outstanding Interior Lineman
 Jim Thorpe
Nation’s Best Defensive Back
 Doak Walker Award
Nation’s Premier Running Back
 John Mackey Award
Outstanding Tight End
 Rimington Award
Outstanding Center


Disney Sports Spirit Award:

The Disney Sports Spirit Award (formerly the Disney’s Wide World of Sports Spirit Award) has been presented annually since 1996 to college football’s most inspirational figure.  Representatives of Disney Sports Attractions, Inc. and ESPN created the Disney Sports Spirit Award with hopes of honoring student-athletes who overcome physical, emotional and other challenges while competing in and maintaining their love of college football.

The award is presented annually during ESPN’s national television broadcast of The Home Depot College Football Awards from Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.  The Disney Sports Spirit Award is not based on statistics or other on-field records or achievements, but on bravery, courage, overcoming adversity, and the love of college football.

Pittsburgh Panthers running back James Conner won the 2016 Disney Sports Spirit Award after overcoming a tremendous battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma during the 2015 season. After 12 rounds of chemotherapy to treat the cancer, Conner was able to return to football and resume his role as a pivotal member of Pitt’s offense for the 2016 season. Previous winners of the award are below:

Year Recipient, School
2015 Hank Goff, Concordia University – St. Paul
Goff used football to help him overcome post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from an Afghanistan combat tour in the U.S. Marines.  
2014 Sterling Shepard and head coach Bob Stoops, University of Oklahoma
Following the tragic death of former Sooners receiver and graduate assistant coach Derrick Shepard, Stoops selflessly became a father figure to Derrick Shepard’s six-year-old son Sterling Shepard and welcomed him into the Sooners family. In a remarkable twist of fate, Shepard grew into a superstar football player who would go on to play college football at Oklahoma and standout amongst the nation’s top wide receivers.  
2013 Devon Walker, University of Tulane
Walker exhibited tremendous courage and perseverance following a severe spinal cord injury in 2012 and became a motivational figure for the football team, the university and the New Orleans community
2012 Nate Boyer, University of Texas at Austin
The Longhorns’ long snapper was recognized for his service as a Green Beret and work with Darfur refugee camps
2011 Alabama Crimson Tide football team
The Alabama football team was honored for their collective efforts to assist in rebuilding Tuscaloosa following the April 27, 2011 tornado that devastated the city. The award was accepted by long snapper Carson Tinker, who suffered a broken wrist when he was thrown from his home during the storm
2010 D.J. Williams, University of Arkansas
Williams, his mother and two sisters fled their home in Dallas to escape a drug-addicted and abusive father. Williams used his stature on the Razorbacks football team and spread his story and message to others in groups like the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program, the local Boys and Girls Clubs and Children’s Hospital
2009 Mark Herzlich, Boston College
Herzlich was honored for his fight to overcome Ewing’s sarcoma and inspiring his teammates and other football teams to raise money for cancer research
2008 Tim Tebow, University of Florida
Tebow was honored for his countless hours preaching and providing support to less fortunate people, capitalizing on virtually every opportunity to touch the lives of others
2007 Zerbin Singleton, United States Naval Academy
Singleton was born to a drug-addicted mother in a home surrounded by domestic violence, drugs, poverty and homelessness. After his mom was incarcerated when Singleton was 10 years old, his aunt sent him to Georgia to live with his cousin. Seven days before his high school graduation, Singleton broke his collar bone in a head-on collision caused by a drunk driver, deferring his acceptance to the Naval Academy for a year. Through all of the hardships, Singelton enjoyed a standout career on the football field for the Midshipmen.
2006 Patrick Henry Hughes, University of Louisville
Hughes, Louisville’s second recipient, was a member of Louisville’s marching band despite the fact that was born with no eyes and cannot straighten his arms and legs.
2005 Tulane University
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the closure of campus during the fall semester, Tulane was forced to play all 11 of its games on the road
2004 Tim Frisby, University of South Carolina
Frisby walked on at wide receiver for the Gamecocks at age 39, after serving 20 years in the U.S. Army
2003 Neil Parry, San Jose State University
Parry broke his leg in a game for San Jose State and, following an infection and nerve and arterial damage, his leg was amputated. Three years later, Parry returned to the field for San Jose State wearing a prosthetic leg
2002 Dewayne White, University of Louisville
White overcame the loss of both of his parents, two fires that destroyed family homes, and a serious knee injury during his senior year in high school to play his way to a 2001 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year selection
2001 United States Service Academies
In the aftermath of 9/11, the members of the U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy teams were honored for their academic and athletic achievements and their commitment to the United States military
2000 Hameen Ali, The College of William & Mary
Ali spent much of his childhood living out of a station wagon with his mother and sisters. At age 12, Ali was kicked out of sixth grade for getting in too many fights and soon ran away, eventually finding himself living in a foster home. With the stability of the foster home, Ali excelled on the football field and earned a scholarship to attend William & Mary.
1999 East Carolina University
East Carolina overcame damage to their Greenville, North Carolina campus from Hurricane Floyd to finish the season 9-3
1998 Matt Hartl, Northwestern University
Hartl was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1996 and returned as a starter in 1997
1997 Dwight Collins, University of Central Florida
Collins overcame a loss of hearing from meningitis to get a football scholarship to play for the Central Florida Knights
1996 Daniel Huffman, Rossville High School
Huffman gave up a promising football career to donate a kidney to his grandmother


National College Football Awards Association:

The NCFAA was founded in 1997 as a coalition of the major collegiate football awards to protect, preserve and enhance the integrity, influence and prestige of the game’s predominant awards. The NCFAA encourages professionalism and the highest standards for the administration of its member awards and the selection of their candidates and recipients.