By NU Athletic Communications
Randy York's N-Sider
Last weekend at San Diego’s Hilton Bayfront Hotel, 10 student-athletes received the most prestigious individual award the NCAA presents at the Honors Celebration following the organization's annual convention. “I’ve been to seven straight NCAA Honors Celebrations, and this one moved me the most, and that’s not just because we had Mary Weatherholt, one of our own, receive that top honor,” said Jamie Williams, Nebraska’s Associate Athletic Director for Leadership, Student-Athlete Recruitment & Diversity Initiatives.
“There were so many uplifting stories from Silver Anniversary honorees to former Olympians like Billy Mills to our own humble tennis player who was interviewed during the banquet,” Williams said. “What impressed me most is how grateful these student-athletes are. You look at their film, and you know they are alpha males and alpha females, but there’s no bravado because they’re all blessed with a great sense of humility.”
Weatherholt’s parents and Husker Women's Tennis Coach Scott Jacobson watched UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman present Weatherholt with her Top 10 Award – the NCAA’s highest individual student-athlete honor based on academic achievement, athletic accomplishment and community service. Nebraska Director of Athletics Shawn Eichorst and UNL Faculty Athletics Representative Josephine Potuto were also in attendance, along with fellow senior management staffers Dennis Leblanc (Associate Athletic Director for Academics), Keith Zimmer (Associate Athletic Director for Life Skills) and Bob Burton (Senior Associate Athletic Director).
NCAA President: Values Drive Honors Celebration
“This evening is about celebrating the values and the value of intercollege athletics,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said. “After days and days of legislation at this convention, this night is the ultimate reward as we celebrate the accomplished, extraordinary student-athletes who thrived on their campuses, in their communities and in life. You make us all feel incredibly proud with your unparalleled character, and we know you will enjoy stellar future careers.”
In a short ceremony interview with emcee Jack Ford, Weatherholt told the television journalist/lawyer that she is currently a volunteer women’s tennis coach for the University of Memphis at the same time she continues to rehabilitate from surgery before making a serious run at professional tennis. “I honestly feel like the Top 10 is a university award more than a personal one,” Weatherholt said, "because no person is an island, and whatever is accomplished couldn’t be done on my own. It’s just very humbling. I feel honored, but honestly the most exciting thing about the award is being able to represent Nebraska.”
Perhaps that's why “Mary exudes enthusiasm when you first meet her,” Williams said with a smile. “She’s as intense as they come athletically, academically and in the community. She finished second in the NCAA singles, and she wasn’t just competing against student-athletes from her own country. She was competing against young women from all over the world.”
Williams: Weatherholt Fits in with Other Legends
“Talk about representing the greatness of Nebraska,” Williams said. “Mary Weatherholt, with that ever-present smile of hers, does it the right way, and she’s just so refreshing to watch. She belongs up on that big stage every bit as much as the Outland Trophy winner from Alabama (Barrett Jones) and that great basketball and volleyball player from Delaware (Elena Delle Donne). All 10 of those honorees are off the charts.”
The Top 10 Award includes student-athletes from all three divisions of the NCAA. Those who make that elite list represent 450,000 of their fellow collegiate student-athletes.
Emmert acknowledged a wide range of selection committees for the many purposes of the NCAA. None, however, face a tougher job than those who select the Top 10 Award Winners. The Honors Selection Committee is comprised of nine individuals that are either a conference commissioner, a university president or an athletic director.
Huskers Increase Top 10 Lead over Stanford
The NCAA announced last November that Weatherholt was one of 10 student-athletes to earn the 2013 honor, and her achievement enabled Nebraska to increase its national lead with 17 Top 10 Award winners, two more than second-place Stanford. The award is so competitive, the NCAA decided to expand it from Top Five to Top Six and then Top Eight before expanding a fourth time to a Top 10 designation, the quintessential number for NCAA teams and now the gold standard for individual student-athletes.
Beginning Wednesday, Weatherholt's Top 10 Trophy will be on display in Memorial Stadium's West Lobby.
NU's First 16 NCAA Top 10 Award Winners
Weatherholt joins the following16 previous Husker recipients of the NCAA’s top student-athlete award: 2008 Sarah Pavan - Volleyball – Biochemistry; 2006 Richelle Simpson - Gymnastics - French and International Studies; 2002 Nancy Metcalf - Volleyball – Advertising; 1998 Grant Wistrom - Football - Biological Sciences; 1996 Aaron Graham - Football - Animal Science; 1995 Rob Zatechka - Football - Biological Sciences; 1994 Trev Alberts - Football - Communication Studies; 1992 Janet Kruse - Volleyball - Biological Sciences; 1991 Pat Tyrance - Football - Biological Sciences; 1991 Patrick Kirksey - Gymnastics – Finance; 1990 Jake Young - Football – Finance; 1990 Virginia Stahr - Volleyball - Elementary Education; 1989 Tom Schlesinger - Gymnastics – Chemistry; 1985 Mark Traynowicz - Football - Civil Engineering; 1983 Dave Rimington - Football – Economics; 1981 Randy Schleusener - Football - Biological Sciences
Huskers First, Stanford Second, Alabama Third
The Top 10 schools in the all-time Top Ten Award category are: 1) Nebraska, 17; 2) Stanford, 15; 3) Alabama, 12; 4-5) UCLA and Georgia, 10 each; 6) Southern Cal, 8; 7-8) Penn State and Brigham Young, 7 each; and 9-10) Florida and Texas, 6 each.