COLUMBUS, Ohio – At precisely 3:26 p.m. EST Sunday, April 19, Ohio State sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott was named the most outstanding amateur athlete in the United States. It was at that moment in time when AAU Chairman Melissa Willis and President Dr. Roger Goudy announced Elliott, a 19-year-old running back for the Buckeyes, as the winner of the 85th AAU James E. Sullivan Award.
Just the eighth football player to win the award, Elliott joins an illustrious list of previous winners which include Bobby Jones (1930), Doc Blanchard (1945), Wilma Rudolph (1961), Bill Bradley (1965), Mark Spitz (1970), Bill Walton (1973), Carl Lewis (1981), Joan Benoit (1985), Janet Evans (1989), Peyton Manning (1997), Michael Phelps (2003), Tim Tebow (2007), Shawn Johnson (2008), Missy Franklin (2012) and dozens of others.
“First and foremost I’d like to thank the AAU Sullivan Award for representing the outstanding amateur athlete for the past 85 years,” Elliott said, “and secondly I want to congratulate all the finalists. I feel somewhat undeserving of this award with all these great athletes up here and all their tremendous accomplishments. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to win an Olympic gold medal so I want to congratulate all for being here.
“I’ve got to thank my parents for pushing me to being the person I am. They demand excellence out of me and that drove me to be the person I am today.
“I also want to thank Ohio State University for this and for all the opportunities it has presented me. And I want to thank my coaches and my teammates for making this opportunity possible. Football is a team sport and I’m nothing without my boys around me. Thank you!”
Elliott rushed for 1,874 yards as a sophomore this season and starred in Ohio State’s three-game post-season march to the national championship with 696 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. He rushed for a Big Ten championship game record 220 yards and scored two touchdowns, including a championship game record 81-yard rush, in Ohio State’s 59-0 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.
In the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Elliott sparked the Buckeyes to a 42-35 win over No. 1 Alabama with 230 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including a Sugar Bowl and Ohio State bowl game-record 85-yard rush to cap the scoring and earn offensive MVP honors.
And in the College Football Playoff National Championship game, the St. Louis, Missouri native led an offensive charge with an Ohio State bowl game-record 246 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the 42-20 victory. He was named the game’s offensive MVP.
“This is a tremendous honor for Ezekiel and his family, and a privilege for Ohio State to have a Sullivan Award winner as the outstanding amateur athlete in America,” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said. “I want to congratulate Ezekiel, and his teammates, and the coaches on the Ohio State staff who all work extremely hard to get the best out of our student-athletes on and off the field.”
Elliott is a leader among Buckeyes in community service endeavors and he is a two-time OSU Scholar-Athlete and an Academic All-Big Ten Conference honoree majoring in marketing.
The other finalists for this year’s AAU Sullivan Award were:
- Akron University and NCAA record-setting pole vaulter Shawn Barber;
- Two-time world champion gymnast Simone Biles;
- Gold medal winning ice dancers Meryl Davis & Charlie White;
- Gold medal winning swimmer Katie Ledecky; and
- Duke national champion basketball player Jahlil Okafor.
The AAU Sullivan Award Known as the “Oscar” of sports awards, and older than The Heisman, the AAU Sullivan Award honors the outstanding amateur athlete in the United States. It has been presented annually by the AAU since 1930 as a salute to founder and past president of the Amateur Athletic Union, and a pioneer in amateur sports, James E. Sullivan. Based on the qualities of leadership, character, sportsmanship, and the ideals of amateurism, the AAU Sullivan Award goes far beyond athletic accomplishments and honors those who have shown strong moral character.