STILLWATER — When Oklahoma State's quarterback depth chart was revealed at the end of last spring — with Clint Chelf listed as third string — he had a sit-down conversation with his father, Randy.
“He said there's a lot more to life than football, and one of those things is education,” Chelf said. “He just kind of said, ‘Keep furthering yourself and making yourself better through academics and through education,' so that's what I focused on.”
That effort has paid off for Chelf, as he graduated in December with a degree in business and is currently working on his MBA. And Monday night, he was named OSU's Male Student-Athlete of the Year.
“Obviously, whenever you can be recognized for something off the field, I think that really shows a lot about you,” Chelf said. “Especially academic work. I'm really proud to receive the award.”
Just count it as another high mark in what has been a wild calendar year for Chelf, who stepped into emergency duty on the football field when injuries spun the Cowboy quarterback carousel in early November and then finished the season as the starter.
To qualify for the award, a student-athlete must maintain a 3.0 grade-point average and have completed more than 100 credit hours. Athletic achievement and community involvement are also taken into consideration.
Track and field/cross country standout Natalja Piliusina, who is a three-time first-team All-American and holds multiple school records, was the recipient on the women's side.
When evaluating Chelf, persistence is the quality that most stuck out to Marilyn Middlebrook, OSU's associate athletic director of academic affairs. When Chelf was not named the Cowboys' starting quarterback last spring, she worried his academics would suffer.
Instead, the opposite happened.
“They improved,” Middlebrook said. “He just decided that he was going to be the best, whether he was the starting quarterback or not. It made no difference to him. He wanted it, but he was not going to quit, and he was the same way in the classroom.”
Chelf said one of the main reasons he decided to stay at OSU after last spring's disappointment was because he wanted to earn his degree from the school. Now his graduate program offers more flexibility, allowing him to take night classes and focus more on his senior season of football.
He's not sure where those degrees will ultimately take him. Right now, he's concentrating on holding onto the No. 1 quarterback duties, a distinction he's earned this spring after his strong performance down the stretch last season, and continuing to thrive in the classroom.
“It's exactly what I need right now,” Chelf said. “… I'm just going to go with the flow for now, keep trying to get ‘As' in all my classes and then do well on the football field.”