DALLAS (FWAA) — West Virginia’s Taijh Alston is this week’s nominee for the 2021 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award. Alston, a fifth-year junior, has overcome three serious injuries to become one of the Big 12’s best pass-rushers.
“I just had to dig deep and (understand) that (playing football) is what I wanted to do,” Alston told the school’s athletics website earlier this month. “I love the game, and I wasn’t going to let an injury determine my career.”
Alston began his career at East Carolina, where he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during his first season in 2017, forcing him to redshirt. He transferred to Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi, where he earned All-Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges honors. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound defensive end then signed with West Virginia, but he tore the patellar tendon in the same knee just two games into the 2019 season, costing him the rest of the campaign.
In the summer of 2020, Alston tore his Achilles during winter workouts, forcing him to miss all but one game last season.
Now in his first college season of full health as a redshirt junior, Alston has been a force on the field for the Mountaineers’ defense. The Lumberton, N.C., native has started in all seven games and is second on the team in sacks (4) and tackles for loss (7), adding 22 total tackles and one quarterback hurry. Alston had three tackles in WVU’s 29-17 win Saturday over TCU, and he has been named to the watch list for the Ted Hendricks Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top defensive end.
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).
2021 Courage Award Nominees
· Sept. 22: McKenzie Milton, Florida State
· Sept. 29: Yohance Burnett, Tulsa
· Oct. 6: J.J. Weaver, Kentucky
· Oct. 13: Elijah Hicks, California
· Oct. 20: Eli Thomas, Minnesota State
· Oct. 27: Taijh Alston, West Virginia