By Randy York, The N-Sider
Two first-team All-America track and field performers received Nebraska Athletics’ highest individual honor Sunday night at Lincoln’s Lied Center.
Tierra Williams (pictured above) was a first-team All-America triple jumper who owns the Big Ten Conference outdoor record. She was named Nebraska’s 2016-17 Female Student-Athlete of the Year. The two-time Husker captain transformed her life at Nebraska while earning multiple academic and athletic honors throughout her career.
Drew Wiseman, a first-team All-America sprinter/hurdler and a CoSIDA Academic All-American, was named Nebraska’s 2016-17 Male Student-Athlete of the Year. Wiseman earned the penultimate NCAA Elite 89 Award for having the top GPA at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
A graduate of Auburn, Neb., High School, Williams spent her formative years in New Orleans before the family moved to Nebraska when she was 12 years old. Hurricane Katrina destroyed their home, forcing the family to accept relief from a local church in Auburn.
Despite the odds, Williams learned how to read and study and went on to achieve a 3.6 cumulative GPA with a major in Child Youth and Family Studies and a minor in Criminology.
A native of Bismarck, North Dakota, Wiseman grew up without experiencing different cultures. He credits teammates from across the country and around the world for motivating him to succeed in Electrical Engineering, one of the most difficult majors.
Wiseman Learned to Be Pro-Active in Work Habits, Finishing Assignments
“Studying while competing in Division 1 track and field has helped me develop skills and transition into life after college,” said Wiseman (pictured above). “I’ve learned to be pro-active in my work habits by finishing assignments early and working on projects during travel trips.”
Competing academically and athletically at the same time taught Wiseman the essence of mental toughness. “Track and field is difficult enough on its own, but adding high-level academics makes it physically and mentally demanding,” he said.
“Getting your mind ready to compete every day makes other tasks seem easy in comparison and the mental strength I’ve developed will stay with me for the rest of my life,” Wiseman said.
Williams had to clear even bigger hurdles in her lifelong battles. “When I arrived in Auburn at age 12, I didn’t know how to read or write,” she said. “I had never seen a Caucasian person in my entire life until we moved to Nebraska.
“The only other African-Americans were my family,” Williams said. “Adapting to a completely new environment and being behind academically, I lacked confidence and self-esteem.”
Williams Had Dedicated Teachers Who Helped Her Through Middle School
Fortunately, Williams had dedicated teachers who helped her through middle school. They lit a fire, teaching her how to read, write and make new friends. They prepared her well for college.
“College was a fresh start for me,” she said. “I continued to battle against confidence and self-esteem issues I’ve carried through my whole life. I struggled with consistency and the ability to believe in myself.”
Williams’ first year-and-a-half at Nebraska were not easy. “I always knew I had the potential to be great,” she said. “I just didn’t know how to make it happen.”
Tierra Williams is one of the most compelling success stories in Nebraska Athletics’ history.
“Once the pain of failure subsided, I realized this was a blessing in disguise,” she said. “I never wanted to feel like I was so close to the success I knew I was capable of, and that one moment changed my whole life.”
The next year, Wiliams worked harder than ever. She trained harder, ate healthier and became more consistent. Through sheer dedication, she became a two-time captain of the team, a four-time Big Ten champion and a two-time All-American.
Drew Wiseman took the same kind of elevator to the top of his combined academic and athletic success at Nebraska.
‘I Wish All My Students Would Be as Conscientious and Easy to Work With’
Jerald Varner, a UNL associate professor, was Wiseman’s undergraduate advisor. “I worked with Drew since he entered the University of Nebraska in the fall of 2013,” said Varner, the head undergraduate advisor in the department of Electrical Engineering.
“I wish that all my students would be as conscientious and easy to work with as Drew,” Varner said. “He is an amazing individual. While competing at the highest level in track and field in a Big Ten University, he has been able to maintain a 3.97 out of a 4-point GPA.
“The fact that he can successfully juggle both scholarship and athletics is a very strong testament to his dedication in both endeavors and his ability to manage his time,” Varner said. “He has all the qualities that anyone would want in a Student-Athlete of the Year.”
Robert Arthur Byrom Jr., a graduate student in Psychological Studies in Education, has a similar kudo while working with Williams.
“Tierra is an incredible woman,” he said. “She is the very essence of what athleticism at UNL can be, and is certainly an example for her peers as what it should mean to be a student-athlete. UNL is exceptionally fortunate to have her commitment, intelligence, enthusiasm, generosity and overall excellence as a model for future generations of UNL student-athletes.”
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