Vanderbilt linebacker Oren Burks continues to garner national recognition for his efforts as an all-around student athlete.
Burks, a rising senior from Fairfax Station, Va., has been named among four finalists for the 13th annual Wooden Citizenship Cup, presented by Athletics for a Better World. The award, named for legendary UCLA men's basketball coach John Wooden, is given to the most outstanding role models in sports. Collegiate, professional and high school recipients of the Wooden Citizenship Cup will be celebrated at an April 11 awards banquet in Atlanta.
Burks is just the second Vanderbilt athlete named as a finalist for the Wooden Citizenship Cup, which focuses on character, leadership and overall contribution to sport and society.
Burks' impact on the Vanderbilt campus and the surrounding area has been lauded on several fronts. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey singled out Burks for his activities at the league's Media Day festivities in July. Nominated for the Wuerffel Trophy in September, Burks became a finalist for Vanderbilt's coveted Outstanding Senior Award in October. In December, he traveled to New Orleans as a member of the 22-player Allstate American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) national FBS Good Works Team.
As a Vanderbilt sophomore, Burks and other students formed Revitalizing and Empowering Vanderbilt's African-American Male Population (REVAMP). In 2016, with Burks in the role of events coordinator, REVAMP was named Vanderbilt's most outstanding student organization following a series of successful activities.
Burks serves as president of the Vanderbilt Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) where he supports athletes' community outreach projects and acts as a liaison between the Commodore athlete population and Vanderbilt administrators.
In the past year, Burks has organized donation drives as an intern with Soles4Souls, the highly successful international non-profit headquartered in Nashville. He has also been active with Project Safe Center on campus, helping educate other students about sexual assault and domestic violence.
On the field, Burks served was defensive co-captain for the 2016 Commodore football team, starting at outside linebacker after playing safety in the 2014-15 seasons. He has amassed 155 total tackles and three interceptions in 29 career starts, including 11 in 2016.
A three-time Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll recipient, Burks is working toward a undergraduate degree in human and organizational development.
Only two Southeastern Conference student-athletes have garnered the Wooden Citizenship Cup: Florida's Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow in 2009 and Arkansas track and field athlete Nathanael Franks in 2013. Professional recipients include Jack Nicklaus, Pat Summitt, Drew Brees, Mia Hamm, Peyton Manning, John Smoltz, Andrea Yaeger, Shannon Miller and Cal Ripken Jr.
The Wooden Cup is determined by a selection committee that reviews votes by the board of directors and more than 100 distinguished individuals involved in athletics across the country.
The Wooden Cup is unique in that it is open to athletes in all collegiate and Olympic or professional sports and, for the first time this year, to high school athletes. Nominations are open to every division and conference in college sports and to athletes in public and private high schools across the country in a new partnership with the National Association of High School Athletic Administrators.
Joining Burks as Collegiate Wooden Cup finalists are University of Illinois football player Joe Spencer, Mills (Calif.) College swimmer Melissa Berkay and Xavier (Ohio) University soccer player Tori Doss.
ESPN college basketball commentator Dick Vitale is the professional recipient of the 2017 Wooden Citizenship Cup Award.