April 12, 2010
PITTSBURGH –The University of Pittsburgh Athletics department handed out its highest honors this evening at the 2010 Senior Awards Banquet held on campus, at the William Pitt Union. With Pitt’s senior student-athletes and their parents present, the Athletic Department announced the recipients of the David Sandberg Champion, Blue-Gold and Panther Awards.
The David Sandberg Champion award was founded in 2003 in memory of the former Pitt wrestler and assistant coach. The award is given to a senior that best represents the qualities David personified at the University - a dedication to academic and athletic excellence, with an unyielding spirit and passionate commitment to the improvement of the University of Pittsburgh and surrounding communities. This year's David Sandberg Champion award winner was Jermaine Dixon.
Dixon was a two-year starter at Pitt after transferring from Tallahassee Junior College, who saw action in 61 career games. This year, Dixon started 23 of 25 games after recovering from an off-season broken right foot, and averaged 10.6 points and four rebounds per game. He scored over 20 points two times and reached double figure scoring in 16 contests. Dixon was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year by Sporting News Magazine.
Next, the recipients of the Blue-Gold Awards were announced. The Blue-Gold Award is presented to the graduating male and female student-athletes who have demonstrated the best combination of academic scholarship, athletic achievement, leadership qualities, activities and citizenship.
Adam Gunn of the football team was the male recipient of the Blue/Gold Award. Gunn made a remarkable comeback from a neck injury with a sterling senior year. He was selected a first-team All-Big East linebacker and a Pitt team captain. Adam additionally was honored with the Meineke Car Care Bowl Leadership Award and earned a selection on the Big East All-Academic Football Team for the third time in his career. He recorded 161 tackles, six and half sacks, and forced three fumbles. Gunn finished his career as a four-year letterman and won the Demale Stanley award for being Pitt’s most inspirational player.
The female Blue-Gold awardee was All-America middle blocker Meagan Dooley of the women’s volleyball team. Dooley is one of the most decorated volleyball players in Big East history. She was named 2009 Big East Female-Scholar Athlete of the Year and was recently awarded the NCAA Fall Postgraduate Scholarship by the NCAA. A Big East Academic All-Star, Dooley maintained a perfect 4.0 throughout her entire undergraduate career at Pitt.
The recipients of the Panther Award were the next honorees mentioned. This award is presented to the graduating senior athlete who has promoted Pitt athletics through his/her outstanding athletic achievements.
Team captain and three-year starting tight end Nate Byham, of football, was the male recipient of the Panther Award. A four-year contributor and an All-Big East athlete, Byham accepted an invitation to workout at the NFL Scouting Combine alongside some of the nation’s top talent in front of NFL coaches, scouts, and executives. He is also the first tight end in Pitt history to earn All-Big East accolades twice in a career. Byham tallied 47 catches for 612 yards and three touchdowns during his career at Pitt. He was also invited to play in the prestigious East-West Shrine Game.
On the women’s side, Dooley made her way back to the podium to accept the female Panther Award. An AVCA All-America third team selection, Dooley ranked in the NCAA Division I top 10 for blocks per set, and was named the Big East Player of the Year. She finished the season leading the Big East in blocks and points. Dooley also set the all-time block assist record (402) and single-season record for total blocks (168). The senior was also an AVCA Northeast All-Region first team and CVU.com Year-End Top Five honoree. Dooley became the first-ever female student-athlete to earn both the Blue-Gold and Panther Award. She is the second-ever Pitt student-athlete to accomplish that feat since Jeff Delaney (football) in 1979.
Earlier in the night, eight Seniors of Distinction were honored. This is an honor awarded to varsity student-athletes who have made outstanding contributions in the athletic arena. This year's honorees were: Dani Bryan (gymnastics), Jonathan Buchanan (men’s swimming and diving), Dorin Dickerson (football), Ashley Habbel (women’s soccer), John Malecki (football), Geoff Morgan (men’s swimming and diving), Michelle Rossi (women’s volleyball) and Mick Williams (football).