Emmanuel Franklin To Receive Inaugural Pat Tillman Leadership Award At The 12th Annual Gene Autry Courage Awards March 21

Feb. 11, 2005

Emmanuel Franklin, a senior safety on the 2004 Vitalis Sun Bowl Champion Arizona State University football team, is the 2005 recipient of the inaugural Pat Tillman Leadership Award, presented by Angels Care, a fund of the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation and the Tempe Sports Authority, it was announced Friday. Franklin and three others - mountain climber Aron Ralston, Olympic gold and bronze medalist wrestler Rulon Gardner and professional surfer Bethany Hamilton - will be honored at the annual Gene Autry Courage Awards banquet on Monday, March 21, 2005 at Tempe's Wyndham Buttes Resort, 2000 Westcourt Way.

The Gene Autry Courage Awards annually honor men and women in sports who have exhibited extraordinary courage.

During preseason workouts in 2002, Franklin suffered a potentially fatal subdural hematoma, a severe head injury resulting in the collection of blood between the outer and middle layers of the covering of the brain. During surgery, a dime-sized hole was drilled into his skull to relieve pressure. Franklin missed the entire 2002 season, but he refused to let the injury end his career. He would return to limited practices in December 2002 and to full contact in March 2003.

Franklin, a Houston, Texas, product, registered 44 tackles, including 30 solo stops, in 2004 in helping lead ASU to a 9-3 record and a 27-23 upset victory over Purdue University in the 2004 Vitalis Sun Bowl. The 5-11, 196-pound former cornerback also added six tackles for loss (minus 13 yards) and one quarterback sack (minus six yards). He led the team with four interceptions, returning them 83 yards and with seven pass deflections. He recovered two fumbles and forced another.

Franklin was named the Pacific-10 Conference Defensive Player of the Week (Sept. 25). He was named the Special Teams Iron Man of the Year at the team's annual season-ending banquet.

A 2000 graduate of Jesse H. Jones High School, Franklin recently was awarded a year of eligibility from the NCAA to compete as a graduate student in 2005 for the Sun Devils.

Gene Autry Courage Award Winners

Aron Ralston: During a 2003 climb in eastern Utah, trained mountaineer Aron Ralston faced a truly horrific decision - amputate his right arm with a pocketknife or face certain death. Ralston was attempting to climb across an 800-pound boulder when it dislodged, trapping his right arm. Finally, five days later with no water and little hope of survival, Ralston saved himself through the amputation.

The tragic event hasn't slowed him down. Ralston has climbed 111 Colorado peaks over 13,800 feet, completing many of the climbs solo during the dead of winter. He has also climbed over the volcanoes of the Cascades and, as of late 2003, completed solo climbs of 45 of Colorado's 59 14,000-foot peaks.

Rulon Gardner: As a Greco-Roman wrestler, Rulon Gardner has literally conquered the world, earning an Olympic gold medal in 2000 with a legendary win over Russia's previously unbeaten Aleksandr Karelin, a 2001 World Championship and a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Yet, Gardner's greatest challenge occurred nowhere near a wrestling mat.

While snowmobiling in 2002, he got stuck in a snow packed riverbed. Temperatures hovered at -25 degrees and rescuers wouldn't find him for more than 18 hours. Gardner credits his bulk and his faith in God for saving him. While his body temperature dropped to a potentially fatal 88 degrees, he would only lose the middle toe. The injury hasn't slowed him down. Gardner recently made his mixed martial arts professional debut in Japan's PRIDE promotion.

Bethany Hamilton: 14-year-old Bethany Hamilton was well on her way toward her dream of becoming a professional surfer. The Princeville, Kauai -based teen began surfing competitively at age 11 and by, age 13, she was well respected in her sport. Tragedy nearly ended her dreams, however. On Oct. 31, 2003, Bethany was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark. She lost her left arm just below her shoulder, but miraculously survived the attack.

Bethany's dream of becoming a pro surfer also amazingly lives on. Only months after the tragic incident, Bethany amazed thousands by earning a fifth-place finish at the 2004 National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) Nationals Championships. In September 2004, she captured the Open Women's Division of the NSSA's Hawaiian conference season opener. She also has secured a place on the USA National Surfing Team.

All four award winners' triumphs will be celebrated at the Gene Autry Courage Awards. Angels Care, a fund of the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation, and the Tempe Sports Authority, will present the event. Proceeds from the Gene Autry Courage Awards will benefit Angels Care and will fund scholarship programs for minority students at Arizona's three state universities, selected community colleges and local youth charities.

Tickets are $150 each and are available by calling 480-940-8666. Individual sponsorship packages are also available. Thom Brennaman, the television voice of the Arizona Diamondbacks, will MC the event.

The Sun Devils begin spring practice Monday, March 21, while the annual Spring Game is on Saturday, April 16. ASU will practice 15 times during the spring.

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