Making the grade: 2008 Men's Athletics Academic Awards
During this week of the NFL Draft, you would expect to hear names such as Frank Okam, Marcus Griffin, Derek Lokey and Drew Kelson announced over a PA system in a large hall. What might not be expected is that, just days before the draft, it would be the Frank Erwin Center in which their names echoed.
The four players were all in attendance Monday night at the 12th Annual Men's Athletics Academic Awards Presentation, where they were honored for their achievements in the classroom, along with 57 more of their teammates.
Kelson, Lokey and Okam and 11 others from the football team received the Provost Award, meaning they achieved a perfect 4.0 GPA during at least one of the two semesters of the 2007 calendar year, while Griffin was awarded the Athletics Director's Award for at least a 3.0 GPA, an honor 61 total members of the team achieved.
Despite one of the most significant days of their lives fast approaching, each made it a priority to attend, share the moment with their teammates and establish a tradition - one they were inspired to build on after seeing Michael Griffin return to last year's ceremony having already been selected by the Tennessee Titans in the first round of the draft.
"Seeing Michael Griffin come back last year after he got drafted, and seeing so many other guys get 4.0s and 3.0s, Derek (Lokey), Drew (Kelson) and I made a conscious effort to make sure we came back," Okam said. "It's a great deal to see it all come to pass. Hopefully, the younger guys will see the standard we want to have here and will keep the tradition going and it will get better and better."
One other trend the four players have participated in is to already have a diploma in hand and a T-Ring on their finger as they receive their final academic award. It is something that has not gone unnoticed by their teammates, such as RB Chris Ogbonnaya, who also earned the Provost Award, has completed his degree in history and is now working on a double major in corporate communications, which he will have completed by December, all in three-and-a-half years.
"For me, it's always been an accomplishment I've wanted to reach here," Ogbonnaya said of a 4.0 GPA. "The number of players honored tonight is a testament to how hard we work and how important academics are. Having good grades and doing well in school opens up a lot of avenues for you outside of football or whatever sport you play. It's definitely an accomplishment, and I'm excited that I did it."
Dallas Griffin was also honored with the Provost Award and completed the night by receiving the Lan Hewlett Award for football, which honors the student-athlete on each team with the highest cumulative grade point average.
"I think it shows a lot of our student-athletes have a lot of discipline, not just in our sport, but all the other sports," Ogbonnaya said. "It shows that we're here to be students, first and foremost, and graduate."
*Provost Award | +Lan Hewlett Award