Representatives from all 32 NFL teams will be in Baltimore Tuesday night to celebrate the 30th annual Ed Block Courage Awards, with two members of the purple and black earning some time in the spotlight.
The Ravens' own O.J. Brigance and Samari Rolle will be specially honored at an event at Martin's West for their gutsy battles with potentially debilitating diseases over the last year.
Brigance, Baltimore's director of player development, is currently fighting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or what is more commonly known as Lou Gherig's disease. As a player, the former linebacker spent seven seasons in the NFL after a standout career in Canadian football. Brigance even won a Super Bowl ring with the Ravens in 2001.
As a front office member, Brigance put together a stellar development system for the Ravens, even earning the award for the league's Best Overall Player Development Program and Most Outstanding Internship Program in 2005.
Even while coping with ALS, a typically fatal illness, Brigance's trademark smile and upbeat demeanor haven't diminished around the halls of Ravens headquarters.
Brigance will receive the Johnny Unitas Tops in Courage Award, which is reserved for a non-player nominated by his/her team for demonstrating tremendous courage in the face of adversity. The award is not presented annually, as it is reserved for only extraordinary circumstances worthy of such prestigious recognition.
Rolle's bout with epilepsy served as an incredibly inspirational story to his teammates, as well. The cornerback endured potentially dangerous seizures early in the 2007 campaign, keeping him out of six games as doctors sought to find the right medication to control his illness.
There was uncertainty about the disease and uncertainty about his career, but more importantly, Rolle was thinking about his life.
But, Rolle persevered through it all. Once he found the correct medication, the 11-year veteran returned to the field and started two more contests before a shoulder injury shelved him on Injured Reserve.
Initially kept quiet as a personal matter by the Ravens, Rolle wanted to go public with his illness to raise awareness and stop a swelling rumor mill. His Ed Block Courage Award comes from a vote of his peers.
The stories of Rolle and Brigance will be highlighted during the event, along with Buffalo Bills linebacker Kevin Everett, who suffered a spinal cord injury in the Bills' 2007 opener vs. the Denver Broncos. Through hard work and determination, not only was Everett able to walk again, but he visited teammates in Buffalo before the last home game of the season against the New York Giants.
The Ed Block Courage Awards began in 1978 to honor longtime Baltimore Colts trainer Ed Block. During the awards weekend in March, recipients from each of the 32 teams come together in Baltimore to accept their awards and show support for the Courage House National Support Network for Kids, which provides support for children who are victims of abuse.
The mission of the Foundation is to raise national awareness and prevention of child abuse. Baltimore, along with 17 other NFL cities, has established a Courage House to support abused children and heighten awareness of the problem.
Ed Block Courage Award Baltimore Alumni
Baltimore Ravens2006 - Corey Ivy
2005 - Dale Carter
2004 - Orlando Brown
2003 - Marques Douglas
2002 - Ethan Brooks
2001 - Cory Harris
2000 - Anthony Poindexter
1999 - Peter Boulware
1998 - Stevon Moore
1997 - Wally Williams
1996 - Anthony Pleasant
Baltimore Colts1983 - Nesby Glasgow
1982 - Mike Woods
1981 - Herb Orvis
1980 - Ken Mendenhall
1979 - Fred Cook
1978 - Joe Ehrmann