Players overcome the odds through football
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:
- Steven Barber, Littleton (Colo.)
- Jonathan Blevins, S. Pittsburg (Tenn.)
- Daniel Bouwman, Grantsville (Utah)
- Anthony Braham, Niagara Falls (N.Y.)
- Cody Dean, Post (Texas)
- Jon Dierkes, Breese (Ill.)
- Dakota Dir, Kingsland (Ga.)
- Justin Ray Duke, Shepherd (Texas)
- Dalton Dyer, Auburn (Calif.)
- Kei Harris, Avondale (Ariz.)
- Jeremy Hester, Panama City Beach (Fla.)
- Chris Kania, East Brunswick (N.J.)
- Bobby Keeney, Tuckerton (N.J.)
- Evan Lawson, Minot, (N.D.)
- Kurt LeBlanc, Bourg (La.)
- Calob Leindecker, Baton Rouge (La.)
- Kye Leystra, Cambria, (Wis.)
- Bill Marnich, Monongahela (Pa.)
- Kyle Merrill, Los Angeles (Calif.)
- Naji Moore-Taylor, Lynnwood (Wash.)
- Kyle Muka, Northfield, (Mass.)
- Jesse Ortiz, Peoria (Ariz.)
- Anthony Pagano, Deep River (Conn.)
- William Peters-Vili, Omaha (Neb.)
- Cody Roberts, Tekonsha (Mich.)
- Jonathan Shaw, Thorndike (Maine)
- Tory Squires, Chicago (Ill.)
- Matthew Subish, Temecula (Calif.)
- Lukas Utz, Cheney (Kan.)
- Kyle Weafer, Overland Park (Kan.)
- * Rudy Awards Voting Page
- * Rudy Awards Home Page
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.
Matthew Subish, Great Oak, (Temecula, CA)
Why he is a candidate: Subish was nominated by his head coach, Scott Strosnider, because of his inspiration to everyone at Great Oak High School. Subish was born without a left hand, but that has never kept him from doing anything he loves. Subish rides motorcycles and has been a starting offensive lineman on the varsity football team for the past two seasons. A team captain this past year, Subish displayed his greatest asset, his personality, when he voted for every Rudy Award semifinalist because he "Feels like everyone deserves his vote."
Lukas Utz, Cheney (Cheney, Kan.)
Why he is a candidate: Only a junior, Utz was nominated for the Rudy Award by his head coach Dustin McEwen. Always the first to arrive at practice and the last to leave, Utz is extraordinary for dedication to the team. Add to that the fact that Utz was born with an ulnar clubhand which mean he has no elbow joint and only three fingers. A part-time starter as a junior, Utz is expected to see more time at center as a senior due to the graduation of this year's starting center. Utz is the last one to consider his condition a handicap, "People ask him what's it like, and he says 'I don't know' and asks them what it's like to have two hands," Utz' mother Missy Wohlford said.
Kyle Weafer, Blue Valley (Overland Park, Kan.)
Why he is a candidate: Any kid born on Super Bowl Sunday has to be meant to play football, right? Well Weafer, who was born in Jan. 1991, was diagnosed with autism around the age of three, will not wear anything other shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops or the color purple - not a candidate for a football uniform. But in Jan. 2009, Weafer turned to his father, Bob, and said, "I play football." The uniform hurdles were cleared and the high school senior became an inspiration to the community. In a true-to-form Rudy moment, the stands would chant Weafer's name, letting the coaches know who they wanted on the field. Weafer played towards the end of three games during his senior season, leaving the field each time with his hands raised in a thumbs-up gesture. As an extra treat, the 18-year old, who is a die-hard Kansas State fan (the color purple), received a box with a Tampa Bay Buccaneer's jersey with the number 1 and Weafer's name. The package was from former Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman who wrote a letter to Weafer, telling him what an inspiration he has been to him.
Mike Loveday is the Contact Sports Editor for ESPN RISE and can be reached via e-mail at Michael.Loveday@espn.com