Dec. 18, 2008
Irving, Texas -
Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky named the 12 student-athletes that will receive the inaugural C-USA Spirit of Service award today. The C-USA Spirit of Service Award is designed to recognize the community service efforts of the league's student-athletes, based upon significant community service, good academic standing and participation in their elected sport. The Spirit of Service award will be presented three times throughout the season, with today's honorees representing Conference USA's fall sports: football, soccer, volleyball and cross country.
FALL 2008 SPIRIT OF SERVICE HONOREES:
Jarrett Newby, East Carolina, Men's Cross Country
Jake Ebner, Houston, Football
Brian Leggett, Marshall, Football
Kate Murphy, Memphis, Women's Soccer
Travis Mason, Rice, Football
Tommy Poynter, SMU, Football
Jana Mason, Southern Miss, Women's Soccer
Craig Gelhardt, Tulane, Football
Moton Hopkins, Tulsa, Football
Dean Sorrell, UAB, Men's Soccer
Allison Palmer, UCF, Women's Cross Country
Jamar Hunt, UTEP, Football
Men's cross country runner Jarrett Newby of East Carolina is more than running shoes and spikes. The Binghamton, N.Y., native is an honor roll student and a member of SAAC who has participated in numerous mentoring programs including ECU Friends, letter winner's weekend and the Elementary School Homework reward program. Newby has collected 42 hours of mentoring just this fall and nearly 400 hours since coming to ECU. The exercise physiology major participated in the 2007 Gulu Walk, participated in Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans with the C-USA SAAC and has donated time for juvenile diabetes, the REAL Crisis Center, and filmed an ECU athletics public service announcement.
Houston defensive end Jake Ebner characterizes a man of talent, community and academia. The redshirt senior was named to the 2008 C-USA All-Academic Team and twice named to the ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District VI First Team (2007-2008). Ebner has volunteered at Texas Children's Hospital, where he signed autographs and talked to the children. He also assisted with fundraising efforts to purchase gifts for the homeless and disadvantaged youths as a SAAC Holiday service project volunteer and is an active member of FCA. In his hometown of Friendswood, Texas, Ebner has volunteered for Friendswood United Methodist Church Vacation Bible School, the summer youth mission trip and once was a guest speaker for the Friendswood School Spirit Day.
Brian Leggett, a senior center on Marshall's football team, graduates this December with the honor of being named the Thundering Herd Spirit of Service winner. The Meridian, Miss., native was a leader in Marshall's SAAC and helped to organize several events including Marshall's current food drive. The adult fitness major represented MU at the NCAA Leadership Conference and also volunteers on hospital visits and school reading programs in the community. Leggett started all 12 games this season and earned All-Conference USA second-team honors.
Memphis senior Kate Murphy receives the award as an international business major with minors in both political science and Spanish. The two-time co-captain for the Tiger women's soccer team carries a perfect 4.0 GPA while collecting numerous academic achievements and giving back to her community. Murphy is a member of the Sigma Alpha Lambda Honors Fraternity and provides 150+ hours to the Big Brothers and Big Sisters CORE Volunteer Program. The Anchorage, Alaska native also volunteers at the Binghampton Community Center for its after school program, at a Special Olympics soccer clinic and for the Boys and Girls Club.
Travis Mason's football teammates characterize the junior offensive lineman as a man with boundless energy and instant enthusiasm for any challenge or project. Mason was recently elected President of Rice University's SAAC, appointed Student Player Personnel Director by head football coach David Bailiff and was selected by Athletic Director Chris Del Conte to head Rice football team's new community outreach initiative. The Oklahoma City, Okla., native led the Owl's effort in the C-USA "Let's SAAC Hunger" efforts for collecting food cans and grocery bags for food banks across the nation and is currently heading a fundraiser for FCA.
Senior Tommy Poynter joined the Mustangs as a walk-on in 2004 and earned a full scholarship after a year on the field. The three-year starter earned a bachelor's of science at SMU and is currently working toward an MBA. Poynter provides a positive influence as he speaks to middle school FCA programs and volunteers to speak at high schools about the importance of hard work. The Irving, Texas native is a three-time member of the C-USA Commissioner's Honor Roll and blocked for an offense that has thrown 88 TD passes in the last three seasons.
Southern Miss sophomore midfielder Jana Mason played in 19 games this season and clocked more than 1,100 minutes on the soccer field. She not only holds a perfect 4.0 GPA as a general studies major, but finds time to volunteer at the North Mississippi Medical Center, work a camp for the mentally challenged called "Touched by an Angel" and work with D.R.E.A.M. tutoring children and teens at an after school program. Mason has also participated in canned food drives for the Office of Community Service Learning at Southern Miss, participated as a member in Relay for Life, participated in the Race for the Cure and in the Spirit of Women Program sponsored by Forrest General Hospital.
Tulsa defensive end Moton Hopkins has volunteered in several activities, including University Ambassadors, Spring 2008 Service Day - Habitat for Humanity, and helped with Tri-Delta sorority's pancake sale benefiting St. Jude Hospital. The Converse, Texas, native also helped with the Tulsa ice storm clean up, the moving of the Red Cross office in Sapulpa, Okla., and donated a Thanksgiving meal for GUTS church. Hopkins currently holds a 3.37 GPA in marketing and shares his love for education and children by reading to students at several local elementary schools and speaking to youth football teams.
Tulane redshirt senior Craig Gelhardt receives the honor after being named to the 17th Annual Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. The deep snapper received All-C-USA first team honors, is a member of the Green Wave SAAC and serves as a Community Outreach Board Officer. Gelhardt earned recognition from the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics as a Coca Cola Community Service All-American in the summer of 2006 for his efforts in gutting and rebuilding houses in New Orleans' Ninth Ward and continues to help rebuild and beautify New Orleans as a member of Student Advocacy For Equitable Recovery (SAFER), a group that guts houses in the New Orleans area.
Dean Sorrell of UAB was the only player on the men's soccer team to play every minute of every game this season. The Birmingham, Ala., native is a double major in Spanish and biology and is currently pursuing a minor in both chemistry and psychology. Sorrell volunteered time to help build a playground at a local school last Spring adjacent to the UAB soccer field. Additionally, he volunteered at a local park on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to help pick up trash, sweep the walkways and clean the park. The junior defender has also volunteered at several local charities along with other UAB student-athletes at the "I Change" UAB community service project and has served supper at the Ronald McDonald House.
Three-time UCF women's cross country captain Allison Palmer is a leader on and off the field. The senior has earned a number of academic honors for her efforts in the classroom and receives this prestigious honor for her philanthropic efforts in the community. The Oviedo, Fla., native prepares meals for residents of the Ronald McDonald House, is a volunteer at the Winter Park Day Nursery at the UCF child care service and is active with the Baptist Collegiate Ministries on the UCF Campus. Palmer has also worked at Quest's Camp Thunderbird for developmentally disabled people of all ages, worked with the Be a Buddy Foundation for mentally challenged elementary school students and helped promote athletic excellence with Girl Scout troops for National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
As a student-athlete, Jamar Hunt has been a strong presence in the El Paso community since arriving on the UTEP campus. Some of his activities include mentoring children, participating in the local Youth Football League and volunteering at the Child Crisis Center. He is also involved with Adopt-A-Miner, where Hunt teaches the importance of education and staying involved in the community to elementary schools. The senior tight end is currently pursuing a bachelor's in organizational and corporate communications with a minor in management.
Conference USA (C-USA) is a NCAA Division I-A Conference based in Irving, Texas. Its membership consists of 12 schools - East Carolina University, University of Houston, Marshall University, University of Memphis, Rice University, Southern Methodist University (SMU), University of Southern Mississippi, Tulane University, University of Tulsa, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), University of Central Florida (UCF) and University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). This realignment was formed on July 1, 2005, and the Conference was first established in 1995. C-USA offers 19 sports total, nine sports for men (baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, tennis and indoor and outdoor track and field) and 10 for women (basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, indoor and outdoor track and field and volleyball).