Four SEC student-athletes were among 10 exceptional former student-athletes honored by the NCAA as the 2017 Today's Top 10 Award winners at the 2017 NCAA Convention in Nashville on Wednesday night.
The award recognizes former student-athletes for their successes on the field, in the classroom and in the community. Recipients completed their athletics eligibility during the 2015-16 academic year and were recognized at the Honors Celebration during the Convention at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville.
The NCAA Honors Committee, which selects the honorees, is comprised of representatives from member schools and conferences, as well as nationally distinguished former college athletes.
Before 2013, the award recognized eight student-athletes and was known as Today's Top VIII. The NCAA Honors Committee expanded the award to include 10 honorees to recognize the growing number of college athletes, sports and championship opportunities.
The SEC award recipients are:
Taylor Ellis-Watson, Arkansas
Taylor Ellis-Watson helped lead the Arkansas track and field team to two NCAA championships. The 11-time first-team United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-American holds two school records and is a three-time individual Southeastern Conference champion. Ellis-Watson represented the United States at the 2016 Olympic Games, where she earned a gold medal as a member of the women's 4x400 relay team. Off the track, Ellis-Watson remained unstoppable. An NCAA Woman of the Year Top 30 honoree, she was a CoSIDA Academic All-American and was an NCAA Ethnic Minority and Women's Enhancement Postgraduate Scholarship recipient. Ellis-Watson graduated in May 2015 with a degree in psychology and has since continued her studies at Arkansas, where she is pursuing a master's in counseling.
Haylie McCleney, Alabama
Haylie McCleney was a force on the diamond while leading the Alabama softball team to three consecutive Women's College World Series appearances from 2014 to 2016. As a four-time all-Southeastern Conference selection, McCleney holds Alabama career records in batting average (.447), triples (16), walks (199) and on-base percentage (.569). She was also a three-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association first-team All-American and excelled in international competition. She helped the United States to a gold medal at the World Baseball Softball Confederation Women's World Championship. As a Top 30 honoree for the NCAA Woman of the Year award, McCleney's success was never limited to the diamond. She was a two-time CoSIDA Softball Academic All-American of the Year as well as a three-time CoSIDA Academic All-American and the 2015 SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year. The exercise science major graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA and is currently working toward her master's in exercise science and health promotion at Florida Atlantic University.
Tiffany Mitchell, South Carolina
Tiffany Mitchell finished her basketball career at South Carolina as just the third player in school history to record at least 1,500 points, 300 assists and 200 steals. As a leader on the court, Mitchell was a two-time Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and led the Gamecocks to three conference titles and four NCAA tournament appearances, helping propel the team to the 2015 Women's Final Four. Mitchell was a finalist for the Naismith Trophy, Wade Trophy and Wooden Award. She also earned the 2016 President's Award - the highest annual award given to a Gamecock student-athlete - which recognizes the winner for his or her cumulative career accomplishments in academics, athletics, service and leadership. Mitchell was a two-time U.S. Basketball Writers Association All-American, a second-team CoSIDA Academic All-American and made the Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll all four seasons.
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
During his career playing quarterback at Mississippi State, Dak Prescott shattered records on the field while also earning both his bachelor's degree in educational psychology and his master's degree in workforce leadership. Prescott broke 38 school records - 15 career records, 15 single-season records and eight single-game records - and led the Bulldogs to their first No. 1 national ranking. He was a two-time All-Southeastern Conference selection. He was named the 2016 Senior Bowl Most Outstanding Player, the 2015 Belk Bowl Most Valuable Player and the 2013 Liberty Bowl MVP. Prescott, who was Mississippi State's 2015 Senior Class Award Winner, made the SEC's fall academic honor roll three straight years. A fourth-round 2016 NFL draft pick, Prescott is now the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.