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Thursday, January 21, 2010
Updated: January 22, 4:49 PM ET
Perseverance pays off for these players

By Mike Loveday
ESPN RISE

Most sports fans have seen the movie "Rudy". The image of former Notre Dame football player, Daniel Rudy Ruettiger, has become part of American life and a larger part of football players lives.

Rudy Awards Semifinalists

The Rudy Awards winner and two runners-up will be announced Feb. 3. Leading up to that day, ESPN RISE will profile all 30 semifinalists:

But Rudy's contribution had very little to do with his athletic prowess, but rather how he carried himself off the field.

It is in that spirit that Trusted Sports has created the Rudy Awards to honor "inspirational football players who best define what Rudy refers to as the "The Four C's": Character, Courage, Contribution and Commitment."

The process began with more than 390 submissions from 48 states and is now down to 30 semifinalists with the winner and two runners-up being announced on Feb. 3.

The winner will receive a $10,000 scholarship and will receive the High School Football Rudy Award, which will be presented by Rudy Ruettiger.

The two Runners-up will receive a $5,000 academic scholarship and Runners-up Award and each of the thirty Semifinalists will receive a 'Rudy 45' football jersey.

Bobby Keeney, Pinelands Regional (Tuckerton, N.J.)
Why he is a candidate: It is kismet that Keeney has been nominated for an award named after Rudy Ruettiger. At 5-years old, Keeney watched the movie for the first time then by his ninth birthday had written Notre Dame to inform them that he wanted to go to school in South Bend. But Keeney's story is deeper then a film session. The 5-foot-7, 165-pound senior overcame the death of his sister when he was seven years old. Keeney's grandfather killed his sister in a tragic automobile accident, but Keeney was able to overcome that sense of loss through sports, according to his mother Kim. Keeney has been a member of the high school football team for four years, and spent two years in elementary school as the team's ball boy. Even though he has spent his entire high school career as a member of the team, he has only played one full game.

Vote for Keeney here

Cody Dean, Post High School (Texas)

Why he is a candidate: Dean has been battling since the day he was born. The senior was born 10 weeks premature and spent more than a month in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. At 3-years old, Dean had his tonsils removed and complications sent him to the hospital the next day where he spent two weeks and was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, a group of disorders involving movement, learning, hearing, seeing, and thinking. Despite those challenges, Dean was determined to play football. Prior to his seventh grade year, Dean would wear a motorcycle helmet and run a mile to help him prepare for the team. With his perseverance, Dean became a member of the varsity football team for his senior season and according to his coach's nomination letter, "demonstrates a work ethic that should be modeled by every member of the team."

Vote for Dean here

Daniel Bouwman, Grantsville (Grantsville , UT)
Why he is a candidate: Bouwman has spent four years riding his bike or skateboard to and from football practice, even during summer two-a-days. The senior has never missed a practice despite not being academically eligible for his first two years of high school. But it was football that made him turn around his grades and the 5-foot-8, 190-pound Bouwman maintained a 3.2 GPA last year. That perseverance and determination helped gain the respect of his coaches and teammates, a respect that manifested itself as Bouwman being named one of the team captains for his senior year.

Vote for Bouwman here

Mike Loveday is the Contact Sports Editor for ESPN RISE and can be reached viat e-mail at Michael.Loveday@espn.com.