Ravens senior advisor to player development O.J. Brigance has won the George Halas award presented annually by the Pro Football Writers of America.
Brigance is the 45th recipient of the award, which is given to the NFL player, coach or staffer who has overcome the most adversity to succeed. Halas is a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A founder and owner of the Chicago Bears, Halas, who was known as "Papa Bear," won 324 games and six NFL titles in 40 seasons as a coach.
Brigance is battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the motor neuron disease also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Diagnosed in 2007, the former Ravens linebacker and his wife, Chanda, formed the Brigance Brigade Foundation to help educate and fund research for those suffering with ALS.
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"I am speechless about being the recipient of the 2014 George Halas Award," Brigance wrote in an email. "To witness the great triumphs that have been reaped from the seed of adversity truly displays the power of God to make all things work out for good. To be the first Raven to receive the award is a direct reflection of commitment of the Ravens organization to its employees.
"Since my diagnosis in 2007, Mr. [owner Steve] Biscotti, Mr. [team president Dick] Cass, Mr. [general manager Ozzie] Newsome, Coach [John] Harbaugh and the entire team has stood with me and I am so blessed. The opportunity to continue to be productive gives me a purpose to press on despite of ALS."
Brigance won the Ed Block Courage Award foundation's Johnny Unitas Tops in Courage award in 2008. Brigance played in the NFL for seven seasons, including stints with the Miami Dolphins, Ravens and St. Lous Rams, and five years in the Canadian Football League with the British Columbia Lions and the Baltimore Stallions. He won a Grey Cup with the Stallions in 1995 and a Super Bowl XXXV ring with the Ravens as a player and as a member of the front office when the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII.
Brigance is the honorary chair of an annual 5K run six times and has raised over $1 million during that span. This spring, the foundation held a 5.7K in honor of his NFL jersey number that raised $110,000.
“O.J. Brigance is the most influential person in our organization,” Harbaugh said in a statement. “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.”