Melissa Jones, a senior guard on the Baylor women’s basketball team, and Sam Acho, an All-Big 12 defensive lineman for the Texas Longhorns, have been named by the Big 12 Conference the 2011 Sportspersons of the Year.
The Big 12 started the Sportspersons of the Year Award in 2000-01. The award, presented annually to a male and female student athlete, recognizes student athletes from Big 12-member schools who have displayed an extraordinary level of sportsmanship and/or community service during the academic year. A media panel selects the winners, who are also represent the Big 12 as nominees for the NCAA Sportsmanship Award.
Jones, from Thornton, Colo., is the first Baylor women’s basketball player who did not earn All-America honors to have her jersey retired. She fought through a difficult injury this past season, losing the sight in one eye following a hard hit that knocked her to the floor. She missed only one game from the injury, and returned to the court to help lead the Lady Bears to the Big 12 regular-season and conference championship and an NCAA Championship run to the Elite Eight.
She has been an active leader and contributor in Baylor’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter, and has participated in two mission trips to Kenya, Africa, during her four years at Baylor. Jones also worked in local soup kitchens, volunteered with the Salvation Army and visited patients in hospitals.
Acho’s athletic ability and on-field accomplishments have been fairly well documented. A Texas native from Dallas, Acho, has been an intimidating factor for the Longhorns on the football field. He lead Texas in quarterback sacks (9) and tackles for loss (17) in the 2010 season. His leadership off the field has been equally as impressive. Ach has been participating for a number of summers in medical mission trips with family members to his parents’ native country of Nigeria. He has also been active in various community initiatives in Texas, speaking at area schools to promote education and the importance of physical activity and teaching English as a second language.
Acho also has excelled in the classroom. An honors business major with a cumulative 3.55 GPA, he has earned Academic All-Big 12 honors three times. In April, Acho was selected in the fourth round of the NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals.
Gymnast Hollie Vise of Oklahoma and Kansas football player Darrell Stuckey were the recipients of the 2009-10 Big 12 Sportspersons of the Year award