DALLAS (FWAA) – Duke offensive guard Laken Tomlinson is the eighth weekly nominee for the 2014 Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award.
Tomlinson, a 6-foot-3, 330-pound senior from Chicago (Lane Tech), is considered one of the top interior offensive linemen in college football and an Outland Trophy Candidate. He spearheads an offensive line that has helped Duke to a 7-1 record and a Top 25 ranking.
But just making a college roster and winding up in Durham was a challenge. Duke’s current football captain offers a slightly different version of the “The Blind Side,” the famous story of Michael Oher, who came from a broken family in Memphis, lived in numerous foster homes, and eventually became a star offensive tackle at Ole Miss and then on to the NFL.
Tomlinson grew up in Jamaica and came to this country when he was 10. He gained about 80 pounds and grew seven inches within his first year in the United States and could have passed for a person much older. Eventually, because of his intelligence, Tomlinson wound up in a mentoring program and, despite early concerns of his mother, lived with the family of Bob Sperling, a Chicago-based attorney.
When Tomlinson first was introduced to football because his sister believed his size offered him the opportunity, he thought they were referring to soccer. His abilities grew on the football field and he eventually was recruited by the Big Ten Schools. But Duke and head coach David Cutcliffe, caught his eye. Tomlinson wanted to be a doctor and someday may fulfill that goal.
The Courage Award was first presented by the 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 Orange Bowl week and receive his trophy at an on-field presentation.
Previous winners of the FWAA's Courage Award are 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).
2014 Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominees
• Sept. 17: Deon Hill, Georgia Tech
• Sept. 24: Ian Frye, Virginia
• Oct. 1: Zach Golditch, Colorado State
• Oct. 8: Josh Clemons, Kentucky
• Oct. 15: Shon Coleman, Auburn
• Oct. 22: Rori Blair, Pittsburgh
• Oct. 29: Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville
• Nov. 5: Laken Tomlinson, Duke