Longhorns honored at Academic Awards Presentation
April 20, 2009
Thomas Stepp, Texas Media Relations
When former Longhorns RB Chris Ogbonnaya took the stage at the conclusion of the 2008-09 Academic Awards Presentation on Monday, he did so to speak on behalf of all of the student-athletes on hand.
Ogbonnaya told a story of how Mack Brown took an interest in his character before he knew what kind of football player he would become and how that interest attracted Ogbonnaya to Texas. So much so, he turned away from a previous dream of attending Stanford and instead chose to become a Longhorn.
"Carpe diem," meaning seize the day, Ogbonnaya told the room full of student-athletes, family members, coaches and staff in the Frank Erwin Center.
It was a message many of his teammates had already taken to heart as 66 members of the football team were honored for their work in the classroom at the presentation.
"It was a great opportunity and a great pleasure to speak on behalf of everybody that's a student-athlete here at Texas," Ogbonnaya said. "To represent UT as a whole, there's a lot of great achievement by a lot of people here, and I was proud to be the one to speak on behalf of them."
Although Ogbonnaya spoke at the conclusion of the banquet, it was not the first time he stepped on stage during the evening. Besides being a member of the Athletics Director's Honor Roll for a 3.0 GPA or better, he was also honored with the Lan Hewlett Award for the highest cumulative GPA on the team, the Arthur Ashe, Jr., Sports Scholarship Award, which is national award that recognizes minority student-athletes who are committed to both education and athletics, and the Texas Exes Leadership Award.
"It was kind of out of the blue to get the awards," Ogbonnaya admitted. "I wasn't expecting them by any means. I just thought I was going to come here and talk a little bit, but it was a great opportunity for me and to be able to set an example that you can work hard and achieve other things besides football honors and athletics honors, and it's worked out for me well."
"I wasn't ready for it, but I was honored to win the Arthur Ashe Award," Acho said. "It encourages me to continue on in my academics and studying and going to every class and getting ready for tests and finals. It was an honor."
Acho joined Ogbonnaya as one of 58 Longhorns to be named to the Athletics Director's Honor Roll. Quarterback Colt McCoy and WR Quan Cosby were also included in that number. In addition, McCoy received the Big 12 Community Champions Award, while Cosby earned the Academic Excellence & Spirit Award.
"It just shows you the leadership from the top - coach Brown, the coaches and staff - and how much they stress academics," McCoy said. "They want academics to be first. It shows tonight when you have a ton of guys up there winning awards and having a 3.0 on our team. It's really important for us as a team.
"I feel like I'm blessed," McCoy added about receiving the Big 12 Community Champions Award. "I have the opportunity to go out and speak to kids and mentor to kids and help in the community. Anytime I have that opportunity, I strive to do that."
Seven additional members of the football team received the Provost Award for a perfect 4.0 GPA, including OT Adam Ulatoski.
"It was a goal for me to try to get a 4.0 for at least one semester, and I did that," Ulatoski said. "It's tough to do, especially at such a tough university that has such high standards. It's just gratifying to get the Provost Award. I saw Dallas (Griffin) get one last year, and it made me want to get one that much more. It's a fun night."
Running back Fozzy Whittaker also received the Provost Award, something he said he looks forward to achieving again, while crediting Brian Davis, Jean Bryant and the academic staff.
"(Brian Davis) and Mrs. Bryant, they offer so much to us," Whittaker said. "There's no way you don't have the opportunity to do the best you can. They offer all the resources in the world - tutors, anything you need academically - they offer it. All you have to do is utilize it."
Appearing to be even more excited than Whittaker was his mother, Gloria Whittaker, who has always stressed the importance of academics to her son.
"I told him that is the best award he can get, and it's even better than seeing him play football," Gloria Whittaker said. "That is my touchdown. I smile and just light up to see him get these academic awards. I'm very, very proud of that."
She also echoed Fozzy's sentiments toward the staff.
"The emphasis for academics here has been great," Gloria said. "The support that is here from the coaches, the staff, the student-athletes, it's such a great experience that you can't even explain it. It is such a family-oriented group that makes you feel like you are part of a special group."
After concluding the awards presentation, it was Ogbonnaya who perhaps best summarized the evening.
"I think there's a distinct correlation to our success off the field and our success on the field," Ogbonnaya said. "I think those two things go hand in hand. Just to see so many guys up there, it's just a testament to what we've done."
*Provost Award | +Lan Hewlett Award | !Big 12 Community Champion Award | @Arthur Ashe, Jr., Sports Scholar | &Academic Excellence and Spirit Award | %Texas Exes Leadership Award | ^Men's Athletics Council Leadership Award