HOUSTON -- One of Brian Orakpo’s dreams came true tonight when he was named the winner of the 39th annual Rotary Lombardi Award, presented by Wachovia. Although Orakpo was the 13th finalist from The University of Texas in award history, it has been 24 years since Tony DeGrate took home the award in 1984. Kenneth Sims won the award for Texas in 1981, making Orakpo the third winner from UT. Both Sims and DeGrate were in attendance at tonight’s ceremony at the Hilton Americas Hotel in downtown Houston.
The 6-foot-4, 260-pound senior defensive end, whom teamma tes have dubbed “O-sack-po,” is sixth in the nation with 10 1/2 sacks and20is expected to be a first round NFL draft=2 0pick. He had 18 tackles for a loss and has f or ced four20fumbles this season. In the game against Oklahoma, Orakpo had two sacks, four=2 0tackles for a loss and a forced fumble.
The native Houstonian played both football and basketball at Lamar High School, ultimately deciding to concentrate on football when it came time for college. Orakpo was named the AP Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year on December 3. He took home the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, honoring the nation’s top defensive player on Sunday, December 7, one day after receiving his college degree in youth and community studies from The University of Texas.
When asked prior to the award ceremony what winning the Rotary Lombardi Award for UT and himself would mean, Orkapo said, “It would be an honor. Just being a finalist is amazing, but also winning would be amazing because these are the types of things you dream of. You come to the university, you write all kinds of goals you want to=2 0accomplish and dreams that you never really realize how much of it can come true by the time it’s all said and done. Now I=E 2m a finalist for the Lombardi Award. It’s a dream20come true.”
The other finalists for the award were: Ohio State senior linebacker James Laurinaitis, who returned as a finalist after being chosen as the only junior among the final four for the 38th Rotary Lombardi Award; USC senior linebacker Rey Maulauga, who was named to the All-Pac-10 first team for the third consecutive year; and Alabama’s left tackle, Andre Smith, the lone junior and offensive player among this year’s finalists.
Founded in the weeks following the 1970 death from cancer of legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, the Rotary Lombardi Award has consistently delivered upon the mission set forth by Marie Lombardi when she granted the use of her late husband’s name. Her only stipulation was that all net proceeds from the event be donated to the American Cancer Society. Millions of dollars have been raised since that time.