BALTIMORE — Baltimore Ravens senior advisor to player development O.J. Brigance, whose continuing battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) serves as an inspiration to many and who has helped raise research funds to fight the disease via his Brigance Brigade foundation, has been selected as the 2014 George Halas Award winner by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
Brigance, the 45th Halas Award winner, is the first member of the Ravens franchise to receive the honor from the PFWA.
The Halas Award is given to a NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed. The award is named for Halas, a charter member (1963) of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, who was associated with the Chicago Bears and NFL from their inception in 1920 until his death in 1983 as an owner, manager, player and promoter. Halas won 324 games and six NFL titles in 40 seasons as a coach.
In May 2007, Brigance was diagnosed with ALS. He partnered with the Johns Hopkins University Packard Center for ALS Research and became their ALS ambassador. In 2008, the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation saluted him with the Johnny Unitas Tops in Courage Award for his strength in his ALS battle. He earned a 2008 Emmy Award as the host of the team’s weekly TV show, “Ravens Report”.
He was the honorary chair of the annual Fiesta 5K run six times (2008-13), and the event raised over $1 million in those six years for the Packard Center. He established his own foundation, the Brigance Brigade (brigancebrigade.org), to raise awareness and money for ALS research and patient services. The foundation hosted a 5.7k (his NFL uniform number) run in Baltimore this spring that raised $110,000.