AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn senior football player Ashton Richardson has been named a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship, marking the fourth straight year an Auburn student-athlete has become a Rhodes finalist.
The Rhodes Scholarships, founded in 1904, are the oldest international fellowships. Winners of the scholarship have the opportunity to do graduate work at the University of Oxford located in Oxford, United Kingdom.
"Ashton is an ideal representation of who my office seeks to endorse for the Rhodes Scholarship: someone who combines a sound intellect and puts it to good use by making good grades and engaging in the undergraduate research experience; someone who channels his energy for the betterment of our world; for others who are less advantaged; for those who struggle every day; and, someone who lights up the room when he is around," said Paul Harris, Auburn Associate Director for National Prestigious Scholarships.
Ashton's major professor, Dale Coleman, said, "To Auburn, Ashton is a true 'scholar-athlete.' But to the world, Ashton is so much more - a true gentleman and a true humanitarian."
Richardson is an Honors College student majoring in Animal Sciences (pre-veterinary medicine) in Auburn's College of Agriculture with a cumulative grade point average of 3.94. Richardson is a three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll honoree and earlier this year was a semifinalist for the National Football Foundation Campbell Trophy, which is presented annually to the top football scholar-athlete in the country. Richardson, who grew up helping his father raise quarter-horses, has aspirations to become an equine surgeon.
The four-year letterwinner at linebacker has played in 32 career games, registering 13 tackles. In 2012 Richardson has played in all eight games, making four tackles, recording one sack and recovering one fumble. Richardson walked on to the football team as a freshman and earned a scholarship prior to his junior season.
A New Orleans, La., native, Richardson is writing his Honors thesis tentatively titled "Comparison of Articular Cartilage Thickness in Cadaveric Equine Limbs" under the direction of Reid Hanson, Professor of Equine Surgery in the College of Veterinary Medicine. He is scheduled to graduate from Auburn in December. Off the field, Richardson has volunteered each week for the past four years as a mentor at the Lee County Youth Development Center.
"When I was first notified that I was a finalist, I was so thankful to God and to all the people who have helped me," Richardson said. "I was overwhelmed with a sense of humility. When you realize how prestigious and competitive the Rhodes Scholarship is, having the chance to try for it is a dream come true. I will give it my all to make Auburn proud and represent all the people on campus who have worked with me and believe in me.
"I am an aspiring veterinarian, but studying at Oxford would be a tremendous opportunity to pursue my dream of using my education to give back. These scholarships are set up to prepare individuals to "fight the world's fight'
If awarded the Rhodes, Richardson plans to pursue degrees in biodiversity and environmental fields.
"The Auburn Family has been tremendous in helping me pursue my dreams," Richardson added. "From the day I walked on to campus, there have been numerous people who have embraced me and have gone above and beyond to help me handle the challenges of being a student. My experience in athletics has taught me hard work and perseverance, and applying yourself every day. If I can go to the interviews and adequately represent what I have learned and experienced at Auburn, it will be an incredible experience."
Richardson is the fifth Auburn student-athlete to be named a Rhodes finalist in the past four years. Other past finalists include former diver Dan Mazzaferro, swimming and diving student-athletes Erica Meissner and Jordan Anderson and former gymnast Krissy Voss. Anderson won the Rhodes Scholarship in 2009.
"Ashton is a remarkable young man, and we are incredibly proud of him for this outstanding accomplishment," Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs said. "He is an exceptionally bright scholar with outstanding research credentials, but I think the Rhodes committee will be equally impressed by his humility and the community service he has done on his own since he came to Auburn. I also want to thank Dr. Paul Harris and Ashton's professors for their guidance and encouragement during this process."
"This is an incredible honor for Ashton, who embodies the best and highest ideals of what it means to be a student-athlete," Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said. "During his time at Auburn, he has worked extremely hard on the football field, in the classroom and in the community. He is a leader on and off the field and is highly respected by his coaches and teammates. Watching Ashton develop over the past several years has been a joy. He represents himself, his family, his teammates and Auburn University in the highest way imaginable and we're very proud of his accomplishments."
The next step for Richardson is a two-day interview process. He will appear before the District VII Selection Committee Nov. 16-17 in Birmingham, joining 12 other finalists from the district. Two finalists from District VII will be selected as 2013 Rhodes Scholars.