While the CSU Rams prepare for their upcoming game against the BYU Cougars on the field, one member of the team is being recognized for his achievements off of it.
CSU linebacker Jeff Horinek received the National Scholar-Athlete award Wednesday afternoon. For his efforts, the senior received an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship and was named to a list of finalists for the Draddy Trophy, which has been described as the “Academic Heisman” and is one of the most prestigious awards in college football.
Horinek said he in no way expected to receive the honor.
“It’s probably one of the cooler things I have ever been awarded with, espe- cially as far as college stuff goes,” the Ram’s captain said. “It’s something I have been working for my whole life but didn’t know I had been doing it. I had no idea there was such a thing or that I even had a chance.”
Horinek, a liberal arts and health and exercise science major, sports a 3.92 GPA and has been named to the All-Mountain West Conference academic team three times.
Ram’s head coach Steve Fairchild said that the award reflects the type of person Horinek has become.
“That’s an awfully prestigious honor for him and shows you the type of kid he is,” the former CSU quarterback said. “Not only is he a really good football player, but he’s also serious about his academics. We’re proud of him, and it’s certainly a good representation of our football program and our university.”
CSU President Larry Penley and athletic director Paul Kowalczyk shared Fairchild’s sentiments, praising Horinek’s accomplishments through a written statement Wednesday afternoon.
“Anyone who’s ever questioned the term student-athlete need only meet Jeff Horinek,” Kowalczyk said. “We are extremely proud of Jeff’s accomplishments and how he represents his family and Colorado State University. He will be successful, whatever his chosen profession.”
Horinek ranks fourth on the Rams in tackles this season, posting 50 to go along with two interceptions. The Kansas native is joined on the list of Draddy Trophy finalists by 17 other players, including Missouri quarterback Chase Daniels and Ohio State wide-receiver Brian Robiskie.
Horinek said that it is sometimes tough to balance football with academics, but he has done it by making school something important.
“I just made school one of the priorities ever since I got here,” he said. “That’s the difference. I don’t feel like I am smarter than anybody; I have just wanted to do well in school, and it’s been a priority.”
Sperry named nations best
CSU senior Kory Sperry kept the honors coming for the Rams as he was named the John Mackey tight end of the week. The announcement came following Sperry’s three touchdown performance against San Diego State on Saturday.
Sperry was proud of the award but praised the accomplishments of the CSU offense over his own.
“It’s an honor and always big, but it’s bigger that we won the game,” he said. “Bill (Farris) played a hell of a game with his passing stats and with our offensive line. So it actually goes to the rest of the team because everybody did their job, and it was a good offensive performance.
Safety Mike Pagnotta was sidelined with a shoulder injury for a second consecutive practice Wednesday. The senior was joined by safety Klint Kubiak who participated during the beginning part of practice but didn’t finish. Fairchild listed both as questionable for Saturday’s game against BYU.
Safety Jake Galusha and cornerback Nick Oppenneer fully participated in practice but were dressed in red jerseys.
Football beat reporter Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at email@example.com.