ACC's 'Rudy' nominations: The untold stories

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

This is a neat award because it recognizes unheralded athletes with amazing stories. It's only the second season for this award, and yes, it's named after Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger (one of my favorite sports movies). While some of you might already be familiar with these stories, others might not and I thought they were worth sharing. There were 53 nominations, and three finalists and the overall winner will be named on January 12.

Here are the ACC's nominations for this year's Rudy Award:

UNC defensive end Robert Quinn

Quinn, this year's recipient of the Brian Piccolo award, was diagnosed with a brain tumor after collapsing in his family bathroom during his senior year of high school. A CT scan revealed a benign tumor that was blocking his spinal cavity. It took a five-hour emergency surgery that included having a shunt placed in his brain to relieve fluid buildup.

He entered UNC this fall as a true freshman and started 11 of 12 games at defensive end. He has made 32 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for losses, two quarterback sacks and three hurries. He has forced two fumbles and has one pass breakup.

FSU's Louis Givens
Givens came to FSU from tiny Mars Hill College, and was told by many doubters he would never play at Florida State. He worked as a bill collector before walking on in the spring. Givens was invited back for the fall, and worked his way onto special teams where he made two touchdown-saving tackles on Miami's Travis Benjamin. He then got his shot on offense when he rushed for a 27-yard gain in a win over Clemson. Given's also lost his girlfriend, who was killed in Philadelphia in January of this year.

Clemson wide receiver Tyler Grisham

Grisham is slight of build at 5-11, 180 pounds and was named special teams captain for 2008 for his effectiveness covering kicks this year and in previous years. He has seven tackles on kickoff return coverage this year. As a receiver, Grisham now ranks 11th in school history with 131 catches.

BC kicker Steve Aponavicius

In the first game of the 2006 season, Aponavicius painted his body and cheered for the Eagles from the student section. The next week, he borrowed a football and a tee and was kicking for fun in Alumni Stadium. A graduate assistant saw him, and asked him to try out. The next week, he was starting in a nationally televised game against Virginia Tech, the first time the former soccer player had ever played in a football game. He has been the Eagles' starting place-kicker since.

Georgia Tech A-back Troy Garside

Garside came to Georgia Tech as a walk-on kicker. Buried on the depth chart behind 2007 All-ACC kicker Travis Bell, Garside asked then-head coach Chan Gailey for a chance to play on special teams. In 2006, Garside worked his way onto special teams and blocked a punt at Virginia Tech that led to a touchdown. Still wanting to see more action, he asked the coaches what he could do to contribute more, so they let him play defensive back.

In August, Paul Johnson was so impressed with Garside's work ethic on the scout team, he moved him to offense, at A-back, where over the last month of the season he was a regular part of the A-back rotation. This past summer, Johnson awarded Garside with a scholarship.