It's even nicer to see someone as deserving as former University of Tennessee basketball star Chris Lofton recognized for his gentlemanly approach to athletics.
Lofton was named today as the male recipient of the inaugural SEC Sportsmanship Award, announced by commissioner Mike Slive. Florida golfer Jessica Yadloczky was the winner of the women's award. Both were selected by vote of SEC athletics directors and both are now eligible for the NCAA award, which will be announced in July.
Lofton, a soft-spoken and team-oriented individual who was a credit to his family and his school throughout his four-year career at Tennessee, played his entire senior season following surgery and radiation treatments for testicular cancer. He kept the illness a secret from teammates and media, declining to use his health as an excuse even when his on-court performances brought some criticism.
Although he fell well short of the 20.8 points-per-game scoring average he posted en route to SEC Player of the Year recognition in 2006-07, Lofton still managed to be an effective player in 2007-08. He averaged 30 minutes and 15.5 points per game, helping the Vols to their first outright league championship in 41 years, a 31-5 record and a berth in the NCAA Sweet 16.
Now free of cancer, Lofton says he wants his story to provide a message of hope – “You can beat it” – to cancer victims everywhere.
Yadloczky was just as deserving of her sportsmanship trophy. She was addressing a putt on the final hole of a California tournament when her golf ball shifted position. She putted out, then told her coach of the ball's movement. By admitting the ball had shifted, she incurred a two-stroke penalty which caused her to finish second by one stroke.
Only a freshman, Yadloczky averaged 74.0 strokes per round for the season, fifth-best among SEC golfers, in helping Florida win the conference title.
“Sportsmanship is one of the core values of athletics,” Slive said in a statement released by the SEC office. “Student-athletes can learn life’s lessons by participating in sports in a manner that classroom teaching cannot accomplish. Sportsmanship is one of those lessons. I congratulate Chris and Jessica for championing the cause of sportsmanship this year and earning this prestigious honor.”
Other male nominees for the 2008 SEC Sportsmanship Award were: Ben Tschepikow, baseball, Arkansas; Jay Moseley, golf, Auburn; James Smith, football, Florida; Jacob Tamme, football, Kentucky; and the University of South Carolina baseball team.
Other female nominees for the 2008 SEC Sportsmanship Award were: Alison Harter, soccer, Arkansas; Adrienne Mills, gymnastics, Auburn; and Sara Pollock, soccer, LSU.