Note: This is the first of four major FSU Athletics Awards that will be presented this week for the 2013-14 campaign.
Big Rapids, Mich. - For the first time in five years, a male student-athlete has been chosen as the recipient of Ferris State Athletics' Jimmy Swears Courage Award. Senior Will Huntington (Oxford, Miss.) of the Bulldog men's tennis program was chosen as the honoree of the prestigious award for the recently-completed 2013-14 campaign.
The Jimmy Swears Courage Award is presented to a deserving student or current personnel within the Bulldog Athletics program, who when confronted with a life-altering situation, has used perseverance, dedication and determination to overcome the odds.
"We annually present this award to an individual that shows tremendous courage and achieves success in the face of adversity and Will Huntington has done that and more," said FSU Athletics Director Perk Weisenburger. "He's had to overcome the odds in many ways just to remain at Ferris State, but yet has developed into a true leader within our men's tennis program and a soon-to-be Bulldog graduate. We're proud of his accomplishments and thrilled to honor him with this award that bears the name of longtime supporter Jimmy Swears."
A senior this past season, Huntington helped the Bulldogs to a second-place finish in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) during the regular-season. The Bulldogs also advanced to the third-place match at the conference tournament and narrowly missed receiving an NCAA Tournament bid. A Mississippi native, Huntington was a regular in the Ferris State lineup at the number three doubles position and earned his second varsity letter for the Bulldogs. His efforts helped FSU win eight of its final nine league regular-season encounters.
Over his two seasons in the Bulldog program, Huntington helped Ferris State win 17 conference regular-season matches after transferring upon the arrival of head coach Chad Berryhill. In addition, he showed great courage overcoming adversity, financial strain and personal issues within his own family to become an integral part of the Bulldog lineup. The son of a single mother, Huntington battled on at FSU despite a lengthy family court dispute, became the glue that held a squad from different cultures together this past season and is now expected to graduate this coming December with a degree in Professional Tennis Management.
"Both Will and his mother made a big effort to keep him here at Ferris State and we're thrilled he will graduate and leave here with a degree," said Berryhill. "Despite having to overcome adversity and emotional stress in his personal life, Will has stayed strong and became a captain while helping lead our team and keep it together this past year. He truly is a special person."
The award is named in honor of longtime FSU Athletics booster Jim Swears, who passed away Jan. 17, 2007, at the age of 64 following a lengthy bout with cancer. A local businessman and community activist, Swears was a strong supporter of Ferris State men's ice hockey, football, and basketball. He worked diligently to help develop and maintain FSU's status as a NCAA Division I men's ice hockey program. Additionally, Swears served on the board of directors for the Big Rapids Area Junior Hockey Association and was an active member of the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association. He was the 2006 recipient of the Northern Lights Lifetime Achievement Award for business and industry in the Big Rapids (Mich.) area.
Nominees for the award are an inspiration to their peers, serve as a role model to others and are a team leader while responding to adversity. Those individuals nominated for the award must be involved with the Bulldog intercollegiate athletics program and possibily include student-athletes, student managers, student coaches and/or student athletic trainers in addition to current athletics department personnel.
Huntington became the sixth-ever winner of the Jimmy Swears Courage Award and the first men's tennis player to earn the recognition. Former women's basketball guard Kylie Muntz had received the award each of the last two years, making this year's honor the seventh time in which the award has been bestowed.
The other nominee for this year's honor included former men's basketball player and student assistant coach Daniel Sutherlin, who was a finalist for the award for the second consecutive year.
Jimmy Swears Courage Award Recipients
2013-14 - Will Huntington (Men's Tennis)
2012-13 - Kylie Muntz (Women's Basketball)
2011-12 - Kylie Muntz (Women's Basketball)
2010-11 - Natalie Diorio (Women's Tennis)
2009-10 - Richard Weisenberger (Men's Golf)
2008-09 - Aaron Lewicki (Men's Ice Hockey)
2007-08 - No recipient
2006-07 - Mark Bomersback (Men's Ice Hockey)