- Amateur Sports
- Pro Sports
- The Complex
- About Us
The Disney Sports Spirit Award has been presented each year since 1996 to college football's most inspirational player, team or figure. Representatives of Disney Sports and ESPN created the Disney Sports Spirit Award with hopes of honoring student-athletes who overcome physical, emotional and other challenges while competing in college football. For the 10th anniversary of the award, the trophy was completely redesigned in an effort to better represent the true spirit of the Disney Sports Spirit Award.The award is not based on statistics or otheron-field records or achievements, but for bravery, courage, overcoming adversity, and the love of college football. The newly designed trophy is 15 inches in height and combines the characteristics of a football and a flame.
2011 - University of Alabama Football Team - (Tuscaloosa, Al.)
2010 - D.J. Williams - University of Arkansas (Fayetteville, Ark. )
2009 - Mark Herzlich - Boston College (Chestnut Hill, Mass.)
2008 - Tim Tebow - University of Florida (Gainesville, Fla.)
2007 - Zerbin Singleton - United States Naval Academy (Annapolis, Md.)
2006 - Patrick Henry Hughes - University of Louisville (Louisville, Ky.)
2005 - Tulane University - Tulane University (New Orleans, La.)
2004 - Tim Frisby - University of South Carolina (Allentown, Pa.)
2003 - Neil Parry - San Jose State University (Sonora, Calif.)
2002 - Dewayne White - University of Louisville (Marbury, Ala.)
2001 - U.S. Service Academies -
United States Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
United States Military Academy (West Point, N.Y.)
United States Naval Academy (Annapolis, Md.)
2000 - Hameen Ali - College of William & Mary (Dover, Del.)
1999 - East Carolina University - East Carolina University (Greenville, N.C.)
1998 - Matt Hartl - Northwestern University (Denver, Colo.)
1997 - Dwight Collins - Central Florida University (Lake Charles, La.)
1996 - Daniel Huffman - Rossville High School (Rossville, Ill.)
The University of Alabama football team received the 2011 Disney Spirit Award, given annually by Disney Sports to college football's most inspirational player or team. Long snapper Carson Tinker accepted the award on behalf of the Crimson Tide squad, which was chosen because of its extraordinary efforts last April to aid tornado victims and help rebuild the Tuscaloosa, Ala., community, ultimately bringing much needed hope to the area.
The EF-4 tornado on April 27 packed 195-mph winds that demolished 7,000 homes, 600 businesses and took 50 lives, including Tinker's girlfriend, Ashley Harrison, who was ripped from Tinker's arms by the massive tornado. The Alabama student-athletes immediately reached out to support their community – the same people who have supported them religiously year after year. Tinker put his own loss aside to visit with a 10-year-old boy who lost his mother, father and sister in the twister.
University of Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams, who overcame a chaotic upbringing to become a star student-athlete and advocate for domestic abuse awareness, was selected as the 2010 recipient of the Disney Spirit Award given annually by Disney Sports to college football's most inspirational figure.
Williams suffered through a childhood fractured by an alcoholic, drug-addicted and abusive father and eventually broke free along with his mother, Vicky, and sister, Vanessa, who together fled their Dallas home. Another older sister, Valerie, had already moved away by that time.
From participation in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program, to the local Boys & Girls Clubs and Children's hospital, Williams has demonstrated he has a big heart and a passion for giving back to his community. He has used his stature as a prominent college football player to raise awareness and inspire others to abandon troubled relationships and seek help.
Williams was also named the 2010 Mackey Award winner, given annually to the nation's best tight end.
Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich, who overcame a rare form of bone cancer and helped inspire more than $120,000 in donations for cancer-related causes, has been selected for the 2009 Disney Spirit Award given annually by Disney Sports to college football's most inspirational figure.
In 2008, Herzlich emerged as one of the top linebackers in the country, earning All-American honors and being named the 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year. After he passed up a chance to go to the NFL as a junior, his football career was in jeopardy this summer when he was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a malignant tumor most often found in bone or soft tissue. A week later, Herzlich began treatment to ward off the cancer in his leg.
Following Herzlich's diagnosis, support poured in from both the Boston College community and around the country. His Eagles teammates created their own chapter of Uplifting Athletes, a national organization that works with college football players to fund rare disease research, holding a Lift For Life event which raised $31,500. Additionally, Boston College initiated a "Beat Cancer" campaign and sold gold T-shirts that honored Herzlich.
Beyond the Boston College campus, other schools and organizations such as Clemson, Florida State, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and the Orange Bowl all donated to Uplifting Athletes in Herzlich's name. And Herzlich himself made personal visits to cancer patients near campus and on the road to share his story and offer words of encouragement.
University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, whose remarkable humanitarian efforts have captivated college football fans nationwide, was presented the 2008 Disney Sports Spirit Award given annually to college football's most inspirational figure. Tebow was presented with the award during The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards at the Atlantic Dance Hall at Walt Disney World® Resort on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008. The 18th annual awards show was broadcast live on ESPN. Despite juggling the extraordinary demands of being one of the marquee players in college football, Tebow has spent countless hours preaching and providing support to less fortunate people, capitalizing on virtually every opportunity to touch the lives of others. This past year during his three extended breaks from school and football, he went on mission trips to Croatia, Thailand and the Philippines. In the Philippines, he visited an orphanage led by his father, Bob, which houses nearly 50 Filipino children. Tebow and his group stayed at the orphanage and spoke in surrounding schools and markets, spreading his universal messages of hope, faith and perseverance to nearly 5,000 people while also assisting patients in medical clinics as an assistant surgeon. In fact, Tebow has said his sermon in front of 10,000 high school students in the Philippines was one of his most satisfying experiences.
U.S. Naval Academy slot back Zerbin Singleton has displayed an unwavering determination, overcoming a serious car wreck and a series of family tragedies to follow his dream of one day becoming a part of the U.S. space program. For his courage and perseverance, Singleton is this year's recipient of the Disney Sports Spirit Award, given each year to college football's most inspirational figure. Singleton, a senior aerospace engineering major from Decatur, Ga., overcame several obstacles growing up, including leaving Alaska after his mother's incarceration following a parole violation. He met his father for the first time as a senior in high school, then was forced to cope with his father's suicide a year later. Initially accepted into the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy, Singleton chose the Navy because of the challenge of flying a jet to and from an aircraft carrier. However, Singleton's dreams of aviation were derailed after his car was struck by a drunk driver one week before graduating from high school as class valedictorian.
University of Louisville band member Patrick Henry Hughes, who has captured national headlines for his inspiring story of determination and remarkable achievement despite being physically challenged, is this year's recipient of the 2006 Disney Sports Spirit Award, given each year to college football's most inspirational figure. Disney's Director of Sports & Recreation Planning and New Event Development Kellen Winslow, an NFL Hall of Famer, presented the award to Patrick Henry Hughes (Louisville, Ky.) and his father, Patrick John Hughes, during The Home Depot 2006 College Football Awards at the Atlantic Dance Hall at Walt Disney World® Resort on Thursday, Dec. 7. Despite being born with a rare genetic disorder that left him with no eyes and the inability to fully straighten his arms or legs, Hughes is excelling as a college freshman. With his dad guiding his way, Hughes is a trumpet player in the University of Louisville marching band, a concert pianist who has performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., a recording artist and, most important, a straight-A student. The significant role of marching bands amid the landscape of college football, coupled with Hughes' remarkable achievements despite his physical challenges, made him the overwhelming choice for Disney's Spirit Award even though the award has traditionally been given to a student-athlete.