Big Ten Sportsmanship Award winners Sunny Russell and C.J. Zimmerer flank Shawn Eichorst.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Russell, Zimmerer Sportsmanship Recipients

By NU Athletic Communications

Randy York's N-Sider

The Big Ten Conference Thursday announced 24 honorees named Outstanding Sportsmanship Award winners for the 2013-14 academic year.  Huskers Sunny Russell and C.J. Zimmerer earned that distinction.  The 24 honorees, two from each Big Ten member school, were chosen from a group of more than 300 student-athletes who had been honored in their respective sports throughout the year.  In the news release, sportsmanship was connected with ethical behavior, academic standing, citizenship and competitive achievement.

Having the opportunity to interview, and follow Russell and Zimmerer, it is not a stretch to say both exemplify a positive attitude, integrity, respect, character, and teamwork.  Courage, persistence and a community-minded spirit are other descriptors that helped each earn conference-wide accolades.  Both are passionate, and humble in every sense of the word.  Nebraska Director of Athletics Shawn Eichorst has featured both Russell and Zimmerer in his monthly Connecting on Campus Column, and their respective coaches, teammates and administrative supporters share the opinions of Big Ten officials.

Zimmerer Serving as Youth Parole Officer in Omaha

Zimmerer, now a youth parole officer in Omaha, was a starting fullback, president of Nebraska’s first Uplifting Athletes chapter, member of college football’s Good Works Team and recipient of the same National Rare Disease Champion Award that Rex Burkhead once won. That accolade put Zimmerer and Team Jack on a major national stage when he received the Champions Trophy at the 2014 Maxwell Awards in Atlantic City, N.J. 

“You don’t really understand what the Maxwell Awards mean until you see a club that’s been around for 77 years and how they honor the spirit of the game,” Zimmerer said. “It was just such a great honor being around all of these people. Growing up in Nebraska, I never would have even dreamed having an experience like that. There were so many great people and so many legendary names. It’s just such an honor to be a part of it. I was very humbled and happy to represent Team Jack and all my teammates and the love we had and still have for Jack Hoffman, his dad, Andy, and their whole family.”  

Russell Eyes Graduate School after Year at NCAA

Russell is a native of Stratford, Texas.  She was captain of the Husker Rifle Team and the immediate past president of the Nebraska Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Recently, she received two postgraduate scholarships – $7,500 from the NCAA and another $7,500 from the Big Ten.  She also was the recipient of the Dr. Barbara Hibner Memorial Scholarship.  A multiple Big Ten Distinguished Scholar, Russell has been selected a Leadership Development Intern for the NCAA in its Indianapolis Headquarters.  The one-year internship will precede Russell's plans to pursue her postgraduate degree.

“SAAC has been one of the most rewarding organizations I’ve been a part of and a launching point for my professional development,” she said. “Being surrounded by exceptional student-athlete leaders and advisors certainly inspires you to strive to improve personally and professionally. Our leaders at Nebraska seek to live their lives with an unyielding moral compass. They’re always working to better themselves and those they interact with on a daily basis. I’ve been encouraged watching my fellow student-athletes put in countless hours not only to improve themselves, but also to empower teammates and build unbreakable chemistry with whatever team they’re on. This is at the heart of a team’s success and well-being, and I’m excited to see where these initiatives will lead.” 

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