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April 13, 2011

OU athletes recognized for academic success

You've seen the commercials.

Brought to you in part by the NCAA, a soccer player bounces a ball on his foot while playing a violin.

A police officer posts up on the block with businessmen, playing a pick up game of basketball while a nurse battles for position for the rebound underneath the goal.



"There are more than 380,000 student athletes and most of them will go pro in something else other than sports," says the voice over.

The University of Oklahoma Athletics Department honored approximately 400 of their own student-athletes Tuesday morning at the 13th Annual Max Weitzenhoffer Scholar-Athlete Breakfast inside the Oklahoma Memorial Union.

The function helps to highlight academic excellence from some of the players you cheer for on the field. Players whose academic pursuits produce longer days than most will ever realize.

Whether it be an infamous early morning workout with strength and conditioning coach Jerry Schmidt or a late night trip to the University of Oklahoma's Bizzell Memorial Library, sometimes it seems the day never ends in the life of a student-athlete.

So much to do with so little time.

"I would never say it was a burden that I had to go to class but I will say I was tired a lot of the times. There was a lot of moments when you would get up early in the morning and start working out before you know it's time to get to class then the next thing you know your at practice and the days over," said former Sooner Brian Lepak who was honored at the breakfast receiving the Sooner Schooner Scholastic Award for his work in finance and accounting given annually to a football letterwinner who has completed his eligibility and has maintained the highest grade point average throughout his years of participation.

"There were days with a lot of surprises at the end of the day or end of the semester or in the evening when I'd say I can't believe I went through a whole day like that. It was pretty intense. There were a lot of things where you get up and it's hard to make yourself go do it. You just go and push through it and those are the moments your most proud of."

But as Lepak points out it's not something that comes easy to a college freshman.

"When you're playing college athletics and you're also a student it's all about time management. It's a great lesson on time management. Especially because your 100% on your own, controlling your own schedule and no one else is making you do anything. Yeah you have coaches that ask you to be somewhere but when you're in high school, you get your parents to take care of you and you have your schedule set.

"Here you've got to be diligent and you've got to go study and go to class and review the material and take notes and pay attention in class."

Trey Millard accomplished just that following his first season on the gridiron in which he was head coach Bob Stoops' starting fullback.

The Columbia, Mo., native was honored as a recipient of the Jay Myers Award which is given to freshman student-athletes 'who best combines excellence in scholarship with potential excellence in their chose field of athletic endeavor'.

"It's just a great feeling to get awarded for something off of the field. The second part of being a student-athlete is not only performing on the field but also doing something off of it is just a great feeling," said Millard, who was a second team All-Big 12 selection.

"The schedule's a lot busier but it's still hard. You just have to persevere and do the best that you can in everything you do. Just try to succeed at everything. It's definitely tough but you just kind of have to do what you have to do to succeed. And if that means class is a part of it you just have to do it."

And who better to learn from than not only his teammate, but roommate Gabe Ikard who was also honored inside the Molly Shi Boren Ballroom.

Ikard was recognized as the recipient of the Dan Gibbens Outstanding Scholar Athlete of the Year which is the highest academic honor a student athlete at the University of Oklahoma can attain.

The Bishop McGuiness product knows the success found on the gridiron every Saturday is attributed to plenty of hard work. And that goes a long way when talking about work for the classroom.

"It's one of those things where it's kind of like me and (Trey) will be like, 'yeah we just need to go do our homework'. Me and him will just sit down and turn the television off.

"Sometimes you've just got to sit down and do your work and just block everything else out. Because as little time as we have, you just put down set times when you're going to do your homework," said Ikard, who was the recipient of the Jay Meyers award as a freshman a year ago.

"I won the outstanding freshman award that Trey won last year. It was good to recognize him for his academics. You kind of forget about it but when that rolls around it makes you feel pretty good about yourself. Just getting honored for what you do in the classroom."

CARTER HONORED

Another Sooner recognized was former All-American Quinton Carter.

Joining Sooner wrestler Jeff James and rowing team member Brooke Sheppard the Las Vegas native was the recipient of the Athletics Council Service Award.

The Las Vegas native who was the founder of SOUL (Serving Others through Unity and Leadership) returned to Norman while he prepares for this month's NFL draft.

"It means a lot to come back to Oklahoma. I look back on when I was a freshman and it seems like yesterday. Coach Bob Stoops and myself were just laughing about it.

"Just looking around and seeing all these great people with all these great accomplishments and a young lady with 114 community service hours (Brooke Sheppard) in one year, that's amazing," said Carter.

"Then you have All-Americans all over the place and then you have academic All-Americans and that's a big deal. Just to establish your own legacy now in the program with all these great mentors to look up to. It's amazing what everyone's doing at the University of Oklahoma."


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