Willingham and Boyette to Join Saturday’s

April 30, 2018

by Chuck Pool (cpool@rice.edu) -

Tyrone Willingham, whose long career in collegiate coaching included a three-year stint as an assistant at Rice and Garland Boyette, who was a trailblazer at middle linebacker over nine seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Oilers, are among the special dignitaries who will take part in the second annual “Celebration of Courage: A Day Honoring O.J. Brigance” on Saturday, May 5, 2018 at Rice Stadium.

The Celebration of Courage will once again feature a 1.57 Mile Championship Walk at 9 a.m., followed by the Celebration of Courage Reception at the Patterson Center at Rice Stadium at 6 p.m. in honor of alumnus and Rice University Hall of Fame Football Player, O.J. Brigance, who is currently in his 11th year of battling ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Registration for the Championship walk is $30 and attendees can enjoy music by DJ Paki Nelson, Rice Alum DJ, snacks and water, music and games in the Kids’ Fun Zone as they honor O.J. Brigance with fun and fitness. Tickets to the Celebration of Courage Reception are $75 and provide access to delicious food and beverages, entertainment, a silent auction, and a program which include remarks from O.J. Brigance.

Anyone interested in attending both events can register for a flat fee of $100 To learn more and purchase tickets for the “Celebration of Courage” events, please visit: http://alumni.rice.edu/events/celebration-of-courage-event-in-honor-of-oj-brigance-92-1

Willingham was a member of the Rice coaching staff that recruited Brigance to Rice in 1987, coaching the Owls wide receivers while also coordinating special teams from 1986-88. He left Rice in 1989 to coach running backs at Stanford and after three-year stint coaching running back for the Minnesota Vikings, he became the head coach of the Cardinal in 1995. He also served as head coach at Notre Dame (2002-04) and at Washington from 2005-08.



Boyette joined with Willie Lanier of the Kansas City Chiefs in becoming the first African-Americans to play middle linebacker in professional football. He was signed as a free agent out of Grambling in 1962 and converted from the defensive line to middle linebacker. After two seasons in the Canadian Football League, he joined the Houston Oilers in 1966 and twice was named to the Pro Bowl. He retired from the Oilers after the 1972 season, but returned to football in 1975 with the Houston Texans/Shreveport Steamer of the WFL. Boyette is the uncle of former Oiler teammate, and San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Ernie Ladd.

The O.J. Brigance Courage Award is given annually to the Rice University football player who best represents and demonstrates the combined qualities of teamwork, good character, work ethic, and courageous leadership which are the hallmarks of the athletic and professional career of O. J. Brigance.

This year’s winner, senior linebacker Emmanuel Ellerbee, led the Owls in tackles in each of the last two years and will graduate from Rice in two weeks with a degree in Civil Engineering, but will turn his immediate attentions to following Brigance to the NFL after signing a free agent contract with the Atlanta Falcons.

After being diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 2007, and experiencing the financial, physical and emotional resources it takes to simply live each day with the disease, Brigance and his wife, Chanda, created the Brigance Brigade Foundation. The Foundation improves the quality of life for people battling ALS and their families by providing access to vital equipment, resource guidance and support services.

By his example, Brigance inspired and continues to inspire excellence in his teammates by simply striving for excellence in himself.

About the Brigance Brigade Foundation:
Following his diagnosis of ALS in 2007, former NFL player O.J. Brigance and his wife Chanda created the Brigance Brigade Foundation to equip, encourage and empower People living with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). The mission of the Brigance Brigade Foundation is to improve the quality of life for PALS and their families by providing access to support services, needed equipment, and resource guidance. For more information on the Brigance Brigade, visit www.brigancebrigade.org.



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