Texas Football has excellent academic semester in fall 2007
On the heels of its seventh consecutive 10-win season and fourth consecutive bowl victory, the Texas football team had another banner year in the classroom in the fall of 2007. Forty-three players earned a 3.0 GPA or better, while eight earned a perfect 4.0.
"In the past years, we've had a really strong run of guys above a 3.0 each semester," said Assistant Athletics Director for Academic Services Brian Davis. "The eight guys with a 4.0 are by far the highest we've had. We usually average about four or five, and these are players who have had significant playing time and guys that we consider leaders on and off the field."
The Longhorns have now posted six straight semesters with at least 40 players earning a 3.0 or better. One of those who reached the 4.0 mark this past fall is senior RB Chris Ogbonnaya.
"I think it's just something that takes a lot of discipline," said Ogbonnaya. "That was instilled, at least for me, starting in high school. UT is a great academic institution, so to have the amount of guys that we had do that well is very impressive. I think there's a correlation between on the field and in the classroom. If you're excelling at one, you tend to do better in the other. It takes a lot of patience and takes a lot of hard work, but it's easier with good preparation."
Ogbonnaya, who has already completed the requirements for his history degree with a minor in business and would like to attend commencement ceremonies in May for those, has begun work on his second major in corporate communications, which he plans to complete by December. He is following in an ever-increasing line of players who are finishing their degrees in less than four years.
"I was redshirt junior this year, and I completed my undergrad degree in history and I have another year of eligibility, so I can concentrate on communications and prepare for my senior season," Ogbonnaya said. "When you graduate early, you have a lot more time to make decisions on other things you want to do. Plus, if you don't redshirt and you graduate in three-and-a-half years, and you decide to try for the NFL, you don't have to miss that last semester and then come back and have to complete it later. So that's a positive."
With 15 players from the 2007 Holiday Bowl championship team already having their degrees in hand at the time of kickoff, Davis echoed the benefits of early graduation. In addition, all 24 members of that senior class are on schedule to graduate by the end of the spring semester.
"We've seen how it's a trend nationally that no matter how high someone is projected in the draft, they tend to go some place to train with someone that promises them that they'll raise their draft stock," Davis said. "I think that's a personal goal for all of them, and it's something we support them in, but what we've had to do is take all of our guys and try to put them in a position where they can graduate in December."
For some, especially those who redshirt during their freshman year, being ahead allows them to expand their education beyond one major and even into graduate work.
"Doing registration, we've looked at a lot of our rising seniors, and we have several who actually may have to declare a second major because they're too far along with their first," Davis said. "They have to take courses toward a degree in order to play during their senior season."
The efforts of those such as Ogbonnaya and players who graduated this past December in three-and-a-half years such as Drew Kelson, Nate Jones, Derek Lokey and Frank Okam have not been lost on the younger players. Sophomore DE Sam Acho is also planning in advance for an early graduation.
"The older guys, the seniors especially, have really been setting an example for the younger guys as far as getting good grades and making sure we're at the top in all aspects of our game," Acho said. "They're always working, you can always see them doing their best in everything that they do and they're always emphasizing for us to do well, too.
"It's really encouraging to see guys like Frank (Okam), Derek (Lokey) and Dallas (Griffin), the guys who are starting, playing every snap, still getting 4.0s. It's encouraging to see that as I grow older, I'll be able to do the same thing."
Davis points out that players such as Lokey and Okam, who were so visibly competitive in the classroom, have helped the academic staff in their efforts to inspire the team to expand its competitive nature to its academics.
"It's fun to watch them compete with grades, particularly when they're in the same classes," Davis said. "It's nice to see guys like Quan Cosby and Sam Acho, who were horribly disappointed that they have three As and one B for a 3.75, instead of a 4.0. I guess they may look at it as the difference between a perfect season and one loss. But we feel very positive about the direction it's going, and for guys that have struggled a little, there is a peer pressure to keep up with their teammates that I think is very positive."
With a 2007 senior class that featured a Draddy Trophy winner, which is frequently dubbed the "Academic Heisman," in Dallas Griffin and two first-team Academic All-Americans in Griffin and Lokey, the torch will be passed to the next class to follow in the competitive nature of Lokey and Okam and set the bar higher.
"Those two guys were bell cows for us on and off the field and had a lot to do with the success, particularly at the end around the bowl game," Davis said. "They really stepped it up in terms of the players monitoring their own behavior and monitoring their own work ethic. That's when you're successful, when you have leadership among the players. The fun thing for the spring will be to see who steps up and takes that role."