WACO, TEXAS (April 10, 2015) – As a non-traditional student, Matt Ellis is making his mark at Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU), earning his recognition as the Red River Athletic Conference Character Athlete of the Week for April 6-12. Ellis is the 11th honoree in a weekly series that highlights RRAC student-athletes who exemplify the core attributes of the NAIA Champions of Character program.
At age 26, Ellis is easily the veteran of the Saints' men's tennis team. The senior from El Paso, Texas, holds most of the school career records, and he is in the middle of his best season yet with a record of 12-3 in singles and 10-4 in doubles. But it's his acceptance of his leadership role and the way he uplifts teammates that makes him truly stand out. Ellis regularly shares tennis pointers and leads the way in all OLLU matches.
"Matt is not only a great tennis student-athlete," comments OLLU Coach Sal Castillo. "He is an awesome role model and leader. He takes the role seriously and has the utmost respect from the coaches and his fellow teammates. He is older than the rest of the team, but he relates beautifully with all of them."
Ellis' work in the classroom is even better than his tennis skills. He holds a 3.4 GPA, and he has been named an RRAC Scholar-Athlete for four consecutive years. In addition, he has received the coveted CoSIDA/Capital One Academic All-American honor.
"The tennis team is always among the leaders in GPA among all the athletic teams, and a lot of this is due to Matt's leadership," comments Castillo.
Always the first to volunteer for campus events, Ellis also ensures that his teammates participate when needed. He commits time to coach the University of Texas-San Antonio intramural team, and he participates in OLLU's biannual tennis mixers that pair the campus community with the team to play and interact. Ellis often turns the event into a clinic for kids who attend, providing extra tennis instruction.
In Ellis' case, the term "non-traditional" could be replaced with "exceptional."
"Matt is always having fun, but he is very respectful, and he never has anything bad to say," Castillo describes. "He personifies integrity in everything he does. He plays like a champion and his performance in the classroom is unmatched by many."
Created by the RRAC Champions of Character Committee with representation from each of the conference's member institutions, the Character Athlete of the Week award recognizes student-athletes who demonstrate a high level of integrity on the playing field and in the community. Honorees must exhibit the five basic tenets of the NAIA Champions of Character initiative including integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership.