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MSU Texas wins 2019 DII Award of Excellence

School recognized for 24 Strong Week honoring late football player

Last fall, more than 150 Midwestern State student-athletes took part in a spree of kindness, spending more than 400 hours volunteering in their local community and impacting a countless number of people. All the while, they kept one person in mind — former MSU Texas football player Robert Grays, the person whose kindness and positive demeanor inspired them to action.

Grays died Sept. 19, 2017, from a neck injury suffered in a football game. Since then, MSU Texas student-athletes have rallied to honor his legacy, turning his number, 24, into a symbol of strength and unity displayed in competition on football helmets, jerseys and arms. In September, for the one-year anniversary of Grays’ death, they took their efforts even further with the establishment of 24 Strong Week.

The initiative, which drove various forms of community engagement by each MSU Texas athletics team, earned MSU Texas the 2019 Division II Award of Excellence. The school was presented the award Saturday at the Division II business session at the NCAA Convention in Orlando, Florida.

“We would like to thank you all for honoring Robert’s legacy,” said MSU Texas President Suzanne Shipley, who accepted the award with Athletics Director Kyle Williams. “It means so much to his family. We knew the campus and community would come together to support the team and his family when he passed away, but what we didn’t expect was the many ways you reached out to us to support us.”

Throughout 24 Strong Week, members of MSU Texas teams performed random acts of kindness and volunteered their time around the Wichita Falls, Texas, community. The football team engaged with elementary school students. The softball team collected donations for a food pantry. The women’s volleyball team wrote thank you letters and made goodie bags for each athletic trainer at MSU Texas. Several teams worked with young athletes in their sport. And all made a difference.

The school will receive $1,500 for the award to use toward future community engagement efforts. It also earned the opportunity to have a football game or basketball doubleheader featured in the 2019-20 regular-season media agreement.

The Great Lakes Valley Conference received the runner-up prize of $1,250 for its Someone to Listen mental health awareness campaign. Student-athletes from around the conference created public service announcements about the importance of seeking out help and supporting others by listening.

The third-place prize of $1,000 went to Goldey-Beacom for its Veterans of the Summit: Stories of Service project, through which student-athletes visited veterans at The Summit retirement community to transcribe some of their stories into written words.

This is the sixth year Division II has issued the Award of Excellence to recognize schools for their community and campus engagement initiatives. Schools are selected based on events over the past year that exemplify any of the six Division II attributes: learning, balance, resourcefulness, sportsmanship, passion and service. Each year, the national Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee determines the winners. See the full list of the 2019 finalists here.