O.J. Brigance, the only player who has won both CFL and Super Bowl titles with Baltimore teams and remains closely involved with the Ravens organization even as he battles ALS, will be honored with the 2016 NCAA Inspiration Award at the NCAA Convention in January.
The award is given by the national college athletics governing body to people who, "when confronted with life-altering situations, used perseverance, dedication and determination to overcome the event and, most importantly, now give hope and inspiration to others."
The recipient must either be a coach or administrator currently working in college athletics, or must have been a varsity letter-winner. Brigance was a three-year starting linebacker at Rice and graduated with a degree in managerial studies. Brigance will share the honor with the late Lauren Hill, the Mount St. Joseph University women's basketball player whose determination to play at least one game last season while battling brain cancer captivated the nation.
After leaving Rice, Brigance played five years in the Canadian Football League, winning a Grey Cup title with the Baltimore Stallions in 1995. He then spent seven seasons in the NFL, with Miami (1996-99), the Ravens (2000) and St. Louis (2001-02). With the Ravens, Brigance was among the top special teams players, and had a team-high 10 special-teams tackles during their postseason run to their first Super Bowl title.
Brigance has been involved with the Ravens organization since 2002, and currently serves as a senior adviser to player engagement even while battling ALS, which he was diagnosed with in 2007. Using a motorized wheelchair and a computer to communicate, Brigance remains a fixture at the Ravens facility and at games.
In 2014, he was honored by the Pro Football Writers Association of America with the George Halas Award, given to the NFL player, coach or staff member who has overcome the most to succeed. Rice University has established the O.J. Brigance Courage Award, given annually to the Rice football player who embodies teamwork, character, work ethic and leadership. In 2012, he was named one of the school’s distinguished alumni.
Brigance, 46, and his wife, Chandra, have established the Brigance Brigade Foundation, which has raised more than $1 million to help other families affected by ALS.
"O.J. Brigance is the most influential person in our organization,” coach John Harbaugh said last year after Brigance was named the Halas Award winner. “In a building of strong men, he is the strongest we have. You are energized each and every day to see how he attacks every day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind, and we are blessed to have such an inspiring man with us every day."
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