The University of Texas at Austin released the following press release.
“Dallas – Former Texas Football quarterback Sam Ehlinger was named the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year during a virtual ceremony on Tuesday night. The event, which was based in Dallas, was streamed on the award’s website and honored its three finalists, including RB Najee Harris of Alabama and DL Daelin Hayes of Notre Dame.
‘I was very surprised,’ Ehlinger said. ‘Growing up and seeing (Jason) on TV, it was crazy to see him in person, and I was taken aback and surprised and just honored. It was an incredible experience just to receive the trophy and be in his presence, honestly.
‘It’s incredible, growing up, especially living in Texas, watching the Cowboys and watching Jason play, my parents were always like, ‘That’s who you need to model yourself off of on the field and off the field, because he does it right in all the ways.’ He has all the glory, everybody loves him, but what’s most important is the man that he is off the field – his faith, his family, the way he carries himself as a man with high class. That means so much to be able to represent this award with his name associated to it. It’s truly an honor, and I feel so blessed.’
Selected from a group of 20 semifinalists by a subset of the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Board of Directors, the finalists were recognized for demonstrating an outstanding record of leadership by exhibiting exceptional courage, integrity and sportsmanship.
‘Just hearing (Sam) talk, he embodies everything that you want any young athlete to become. I have two boys, and that’s what you want them to look up to. He has a good head on his shoulders, he’s humble, he’s a competitor, you can obviously see that he wants to have more success, he wants to chase something bigger than what he’s just experienced now, and that’s what this game’s all about. (It’s) to be able to have an opportunity to have a career like that and to be thankful for the people who made so many sacrifices to help get you where you are in life, and then ultimately to still push forward and dream of more that you want to accomplish and bring others along with you on that ride. He’s just so deserving of this award. He embodies everything that this award’s all about, he’s a great role model and he’s got a bright future for sure.’
Ehlinger, an Austin native, ended his collegiate career as one of the most successful quarterbacks in Texas history. He played in 46 games and made 43 starts during his time on the Forty Acres, leading the Longhorns to 27 wins as the starting quarterback – the fourth-most in school history. Ehlinger served as a team captain during the 2019 and 2020 seasons, becoming only the seventh two-time team captain in school history. His name is left near the top of numerous lists in the Texas record book. Most notably, he closed his collegiate career ranked second on UT record in completions (923), passing yards (11,436), total offense (13,343), passing touchdowns (94), and total touchdowns responsible for (127). Ehlinger also ranks second among Longhorn quarterbacks in rushing touchdowns (33) and third in rushing yards (1,907). He threw for more than 200 yards, and surpassed 300 yards 10 times, both the second-most in school history behind only Colt McCoy. He holds school records for lowest interception percentage (1.83%), games with a passing and rushing touchdown (18), games with 350 yards of total offense (11), games with 400 yards of total offense (5), games with 400-plus passing yards (2) and games with five-plus passing touchdowns (2), among others.
Ehlinger is one of only three players in FBS history to throw for at least 11,000 career yards and rush for more than 1,500 yards. He is also one of only three players in FBS history to throw for at least 90 touchdowns and rush for 30. Ehlinger’s 127 touchdowns responsible for rank as the fourth-most in Big 12 history, and his 94 passing touchdowns are the seventh-best tally by a Big 12 quarterback.
Off the field, Ehlinger is graduate of the prestigious McCombs School of Business at UT, and is a two-time Academic All-Big 12 First Team honoree and six-time member of the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll. Ehlinger has also been extremely active in community service. Among many other efforts, he raised almost $200,000 for charities related to COVID-19 relief through online fundraising. He also contributed his time passing out meals and school materials at the Austin Boys & Girls Club. Ehlinger was a three-time Academic All-Big 12 First Team selections (2018-20) and a six-time member of the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll.
In 2020, Ehlinger was also named a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, Wuerffel Trophy and Bobby Bowden Trophy. In addition, he was selected to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, named the Big 12 Co-Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year and recognized as a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien and Earl Campbell Tyler Rose awards. He was also a Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Top-10 Candidate and earned second-team All-Big 12 recognition from the league’s coaches.
The Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award is the first college football honor to focus primarily on a player’s leadership, both on and off the field. Leadership is a term synonymous with Witten, who, in addition to becoming one of the best tight ends in the history of the sport and the Cowboys’ all-time leading receiver, has served as one of football’s most prominent role models during his 17-year pro career.
As the winner of the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award, Ehlinger will receive a $10,000 contribution in his name to The University of Texas’ athletic scholarship fund. The contribution will be made by Jason Witten’s SCORE Foundation, the official charity of Jason and his wife Michelle. The SCORE Foundation, founded in 2007, has positively impacted tens of thousands of children and families in Texas and Tennessee over the last 13 years.
The inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award was presented to UCF’s Shaquem Griffin. Wisconsin’s D’Cota Dixon earned the honor in 2018, and Tennessee’s Trey Smith won the award last year.”