DALLAS (FWAA) — Kentucky’s J.J. Weaver is this week’s nominee for the 2021 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award. Weaver, a redshirt sophomore linebacker, has overcome an ACL tear and dealt with multiple personal tragedies while becoming an integral role in the Wildcats’ 11th-ranked defense. Weaver_-_with_Capital_One_logo

"This was most definitely the dream,” Weaver said after Saturday’s win over No. 10 Florida. “I’m still living in it now. So, most definitely. Coach (Brad) White, Coach (Mark) Stoops, they've all believed in me since day one. And redshirting, I doubted them. But, last year, I took so many losses, so they came in together as a family, so that made me open up more and made me show up a lot better. So, it made me believe in the system. That helped me deliver my game, my communication. My teammates have been working hard, we've been more open, trusting the coaches and it helped a lot."

Weaver’s father, Terrance, was murdered in June of 2020. Weaver’s high school coach, Rob Reader, passed away in the summer of 2021 after a battle with cancer. In-between the two tragedies, Weaver suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during last season’s game at Florida, ending his freshman season in Lexington.

The 6-foot-5, 241-pound Weaver — who was worn with six fingers on his right hand — was still voted to the All-SEC freshman team by league coaches, as he tallied 33 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, two hurries and one pass breakup.

During this past Saturday’s 20-13 upset against the Gators — the team he suffered his injury against last season — Weaver recorded his first career interception, a fourth-quarter takeaway that set up a touchdown drive for Kentucky. Weaver posted four tackles, 0.5 TFLs and one hurry.

The Louisville native has 14 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, four sacks, one forced fumble and one interception through fives games this season for the undefeated, 16th-ranked Wildcats.

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 analyst Alex Charlton (2020), 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
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 through its Orange Bowl Cares program: Youth Sports, Education, Community Engagement and Legacy Programs. Orange Bowl features a year-round schedule of events culminating with the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 31, 2021. For more information on the 2021 Orange Bowl events, including promotional inquiries and volunteer opportunities through the Ambassador Program presented by Panera Bread, log on to or follow @OrangeBowl on social media.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or

2021 Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominees
• Sept. 22: McKenzie Milton, Florida State
• Sept. 29: Yohance Burnett, Tulsa
• Oct. 6: J.J. Weaver, Kentucky


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