HOUSTON, October 10, 2022 — The American Heart Association’s Paul “Bear” Bryant Awards has named coaching legend Mark Dantonio the recipient of the 2023 Paul “Bear” Bryant Heart of a Champion Award, presented by St. Luke’s Health in Houston, Texas. Established in 2020, the Heart of a Champion Award recognizes an individual whose notable contributions and positive influence have helped define the ways we enjoy, watch and engage in sports, and whose life is exemplary of a champion through the display of characteristics for which Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant was known, including integrity, perseverance, determination and grit. ESPN College GameDay host and former coach Lee Corso received the inaugural award, followed by former Mississippi State football coach Sylvester Croom in 2021 and Stanford University coach David Shaw in 2022.
The Heart of a Champion Award is one of four honors presented during the Bryant Awards Ceremony, presented by Marathon Oil, on January 11, 2023, in Houston, Texas. In addition to Heart of a Champion, awards will be bestowed for Lifetime Achievement, Fan Vote Favorite, and the 2022 Paul “Bear” Bryant Awards Coach of the Year, voted on by the National Sports Media Association, current NCAA College football coaches, former Coach of the Year Award winners, the Bryant Awards’ Executive Leadership Team and the Bryant family.
The American Heart Association, a global force for longer, healthier lives, and the Bryant family host the awards ceremony annually, now in its 37th year, to celebrate Bear Bryant’s legacy and raise awareness and critical funds for research to eradicate cardiovascular disease and stroke, leading causes of death globally. The football coaching legend died from a heart attack in 1983, just 28 days after his final victory and retirement.
Mark Dantonio concluded his football career in 2019 after holding the position of head football coach at Michigan State University since 2006. Under his direction, the university experienced one of the most successful football eras in the program’s history. Dantonio’s Spartans competed in three Big Ten Conference championships, Michigan State’s first 13-win season and the program’s fifth-ever trip to the Rose Bowl where they defeated Stanford and finished third in the nation.
“2022 has been a humbling year for me and my family, and it is a privilege to receive the Heart of a Champion Award,” said Dantonio. “Receiving an Award named after one of football’s legendary caches is one of my greatest honors. College football has evolved and will continue to evolve over time, but the legacies of the coaches that have come before me have left a lasting impact.”
Coach Dantonio’s other honors include his status as the all-time winningest coach in Michigan State program history, with three Big Ten Conference Championships, reaching the College Football Playoffs in 2015. He was named as the Gene Stallings Coach of the Year in 2016 and was twice a finalist previously for the Paul “Bear” Bryant Awards Coach of the Year. Outside of football, Dantonio is known for his humanitarian and charitable efforts. He is a family man, married to wife Rebecca for 32 years and with two daughters, Kristen and Lauren. His father is of Italian descent and mother is of Polish descent. In June 2022, Dantonio was inducted in the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame.
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About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.
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