The University of Oklahoma football team recognized its senior class and numerous other individuals at the team’s annual dinner and awards ceremony Friday night.
Head coach Bob Stoops recognized 21 seniors for their accomplishments and contributions. This year’s senior class registered four consecutive bowl berths and a Big 12 championship, while registering 39 wins. This contingent of seniors produced a 26-10 conference record, including three victories against Texas.
Senior tight end Blake Bell and senior offensive lineman Daryl Williams were named the Bob Kalsu Award winners.
Bell, from Wichita, Kan., has seen his role with the Sooners change over his four years in Norman. He broke onto the scene early as the star of the “Belldozer” package created specifically for his ability to produce in goal-line and short-yardage situations. Over the next two seasons Bell transformed into a traditional quarterback who still had the ability to make plays with his feet. After his junior season Bell selflessly volunteered to transition from quarterback to tight end and blossomed in the role, catching four touchdowns and becoming known as a great blocker in the running game.
Williams, a three year starter at right tackle, is considered by coaches and teammates to be the leader of the offensive line. The Lake Dallas, Texas, native has started 36 games over the course of his Sooner career and has played in 44 games. Williams has been an invaluable cog on the offensive line during the 2014 season, helping the unit to allow just eight sacks on the season, the fewest in the nation. Williams’ performance has not gone unnoticed, as the senior was recently named an All-Big 12 First Team honoree by the league’s coaches and the Associated Press.
The Bob Kalsu Award is bestowed annually to a member of the team who personifies Kalsu’s spirit of leadership, serving as a motivator and role model for his teammates. Kalsu earned All-America honors in 1967 as an offensive tackle while helping the Sooners to a Big 8 Championship. Serving as a member of the U.S. Army's highly-decorated 101st Airborne Division, Kalsu was killed by North Vietnamese mortar fire on July 21, 1970.
The Don Key Award, announced earlier this year before the Sooners’ game against Oklahoma State, was awarded to senior Aaron Ripkowski, who originally joined the Sooners as a walk-on in 2011, playing in nine games primarily on special teams. The Dayton, Texas, native has gone on to see duty in a total of 43 contests for Oklahoma, making 14 starts at fullback. Following the 2012 campaign, he earned the Derrick Shepard Award as the team’s most inspirational walk-on and was subsequently awarded a scholarship from head coach Bob Stoops. Ripkowski has been extremely effective in short-yardage situations, as 10 of his 13 touches this season have resulted in either a touchdown (four) or first down.
The Don Key Award is presented annually to a senior who exemplifies all-around excellence in the classroom and on the field. Key was a three-year starter for the Sooners, an All-Big 8 guard and potential All-American until cancer ended his football career in 1981. Barry Switzer established the Don Key Award in 1982.
Defensive end David Driskill was selected as the recipient of the Derrick Shepard Most Inspirational Walk-On Award for the second straight season. Driskill, a senior from Oklahoma City, has served as an integral part of the club’s scout team over the course of his Sooner career. The senior’s great attitude and work ethic earned him playing time in three games this season.
Shepard joined the OU roster as a walk-on in 1983 before earning a prominent role as a wide receiver and return man on the Sooners’ 1985 National Championship team. He passed away at the age of 35 in 1999 after suffering a heart attack.
Also on Friday, punter Jed Barnett, center Ty Darlington, linebacker Aaron Franklin, linebacker Caleb Gastelum, linebacker Geneo Grissom, safety Quentin Hayes, defensive end Chuka Ndulue, offensive tackle Tyrus Thompson and offensive tackle Daryl Williams each received their diplomas as the newest OU football college graduates.