April 19, 2010
As former Longhorns LB Drew Kelson spoke to a full audience at the 2010 Academic Awards Presentation, his advice to current student-athletes was to surround themselves with people they admire and can learn from.
The result, Kelson said, will be that you will see yourself grow as a person.
For those being honored at the presentation, many are currently surrounded with those types of people, but the challenge is to continue that after college and after athletics.
"They've been successful on the collegiate level in everything they do, whether it's sports or academics," Kelson said. "There's a life after this where you're going to be faced with a ton of challenges. You're going to have to recreate and reinvent yourself. I just tried to point out some things that will help carry them through."
Having been a member of the 2005 National Championship team and a regular attendee of this same awards presentation as a student-athlete, Kelson also pointed out the foundations for everything they need are in the lessons they have learned at Texas.
"I was prepared for the communication, doing presentations, just being in front of people and being able to communicate well and interact with people," said Kelson, who now works at a commercial real estate firm in Houston. "When it comes to dealing with the market and the way it was when I first started, it goes back to everything here – be patient, hold on, persevere, keep fighting through."
Those are all central lessons for the Texas football team, of which approximately 50 members were honored Monday night at the Erwin Center. All of them were named to the Athletics Director's Honor Roll for a minimum 3.0 grade point average.
In addition, former OT Adam Ulatoski was honored with the Lan Hewlett Award for football for the highest cumulative GPA on the team, while former QB Colt McCoy earned the Big 12 Community Champions Award and former DB Ishie Oduegwu was recognized with the Men's Athletics Council Achievement Award. Those three were not able to attend, but the team was well represeted with current student-athletes.
"It was really a pleasure to see so many of our teammates up there," senior DE Sam Acho said. "It's a testament to the hard work we do off the field. Everyone saw how hard we work on the field getting to the National Championship Game, but this is what we do off the field in the classroom and during extra hours, seeing tutors, whatever it takes to get where we need to go."
Acho was honored with the Texas Exes Leadership Award and the Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sports Scholar Award. The Arthur Ashe Award, which is a national award for minority student-athletes, was also present to his brother, junior LB Emmanuel Acho, junior RB Fozzy Whittaker and sophomore RB Tre' Newton from the football team.
"It was very humbling (to receive the Arthur Ashe Award), but it also sparks the desire to work harder and keep improving," Emmanuel Acho said. "My brother got two awards tonight, so that sets the bar even higher. It sets the standard high to keep working and trying to be a leader on and off the field."
As displayed by the two brothers, so much of what Monday night was about comes back to a central theme of Texas football – family.
"This is a night to celebrate all the work that’s done in the classroom that isn’t as visible as what they do on the field," said Associate Athletics Director for Academic Services Brian Davis. "The fact that we have so many guys receiving this award has inspired the other ones and it’s become a goal to be here. So many of them have their families here, and to them, this is as big as anything they do on the field."
The Achos' parents, Dr. Sonny and Christie Acho, were there supporting their sons, in whom they instilled the importance of academics from an early age long before football was even a thought. However, it was the combination of academics and athletics that eventually attracted them to Texas.
"What I see in Texas is great balance," Dr. Acho said. "Initially four years ago, we were trying to get Sam to Ivy League schools, but he wasn't going to be able to do football very well there. So when we discovered the McCombs School of Business at Texas and where it was ranked, we decided this would be the place for us, and it has worked out. This is a great program. I would say it was almost designed for the Achos."
Whittaker's mother was also in attendance as he was honored for the second straight year.
"It's a happy feeling for everybody," Whittaker said. "Putting a smile on her face is my biggest pride and joy. Seeing her being able to just share this moment with me is what I was looking forward to tonight."
Along with being able to thank their families, many of the players credited Davis and the academic staff for their efforts.
"All of our academic staff and advisors give us tremendous support," Newton said. "Academics are stressed very highly, because when you get done with football, you need to be able to go out and get a job. They're always supporting us and are there whenever we need them, so it's great."
"I think they do an incredible job of supporting us and leading us in the right direction," Emmanuel Acho added. "They tell us what classes will fit us best and our majors best, and what classes will probably fit our personalities best. They do a great job working with us step by step and taking us down the right path."
For Kelson, it's a path he has been down, and one he is happy to see so many UT football student-athletes following now.
"I think it's awesome," Kelson said. "I think it builds accountability, it builds comraderie, just to know there's someone else who takes this as seriously as you do. I think every year you see some of the same faces, and hopefully every year you continue to see more and more."