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Former NCAA stars shine at Honors Celebration

By Brian Burnsed

Six accomplished individuals were called to the stage Friday at the NCAA Honors Celebration in Indianapolis, where they accepted the distinguished Silver Anniversary Award in recognition of their myriad athletic and professional accomplishments. Each reflected on what their time in college did to propel them to their successes.

Tim Brown, the 1987 Heisman Trophy winner claims the discipline instilled in him during his time at Notre Dame allowed him to flourish in the NFL. Brown is now a finalist for admission to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Former Notre Dame wide receiver Tim Brown was one of six Silver Anniversary Award winners recognized at the 2012 NCAA Honors Celebration.

“(I learned) work ethic. The one thing about Notre Dame is you’re going to responsible (for your actions),” Brown said. “I got to the league and it was all about concentrating and being disciplined.”

Joining Brown in this year’s Silver class were ESPN commentator Doris Burke (Providence), former NBA All-Star and current mayor of Sacramento Kevin Johnson (California), New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton (Eastern Illinois), director of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics Amy Perko (Wake Forest) and Basketball Hall of Fame member David Robinson (Navy).

Burke, who was inducted into Providence College Hall of Fame for her exploits on the basketball court, is better known for her successes as a sports broadcaster. She is the first woman to call a Big East and New York Knicks basketball game on television, and credited those successes to lessons she learned in the classroom at Providence.

Burke admits “her head was spinning” and that she was “overwhelmed” during her freshman year by the daunting, five-day-a-week “Development of Western Civilization” course at Providence. But she said that course helped instill in her a knack for dogged preparation that has propelled her up the ranks at ESPN.

“It’s not going to be easy all of the time,” she said. “The harder moments of your life define who you are, change you, shape you and make you better. You don’t necessarily enjoy the hard moments, but they’re going to help you eventually.”

The 2012 NCAA Honors Celebration award recipients receive a standing ovation.

While Robinson’s exploits playing for the Naval Academy, San Antonio Spurs and Olympic Dream Team are well-documented, perhaps his biggest impact has come by shaping young minds. His school, the Carver Academy in San Antonio, is close to sending its first group of graduates off to college. Sixth graders at Robinson’s school do math at eleventh and twelfth grade levels and first graders are taught Japanese and German. Robinson says launching the school was perhaps more daunting than any opponent he faced on the court.

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Robinson quipped. “It’s an incredibly challenging task.

At Friday evening’s ceremony, the NCAA also bestowed its most prestigious honor—the Theodore Roosevelt Award, upon former Miami (Florida) basketball star Will Allen. The current CEO of the nonprofit Growing Power has helped spread sustainable practices to underserved communities.

The night didn’t merely honor student-athletes far removed from their years on campus. This year’s Top VIII Award recipients—students who used the remainder of their athletic eligibility in 2011—were recognized for bringing pride to their schools  through athletic success—including national championships in track & field, gymnastics an swimming—and positioning themselves for success by flourishing in the academic arena.

Former Oklahoma women's basketball player Danielle Robinson was a Top VIII Award winner recognized at the 2012 NCAA Honors Celebration.

The recipients included football player Sam Acho (Texas), softball player Kelsey Bruder (Florida), runner Shannon Gagne (New Haven), gymnast Kayla Hoffman (Alabama), runner Lee Ellis Moore (Mississippi), Kendra Stern (Amherst) and diver Brittany Viola (Miami (Florida)).

Top VIII winner Danielle Robinson, who played basketball for Oklahoma, was drafted by the WNBA’s San Antonio Silver Stars in 2011 and spends the offseason playing overseas. She’s undaunted by being thrust into a foreign culture, crediting her college experience for preparing her to handle new challenges.

“I was taught to compete at the highest level,” she said. “The diverse atmosphere and venues that we played at (in college) helped me to adapt to anything.”