LEXINGTON, Ky. - Kentucky men's soccer graduate Paul Sime was named the Arthur Ashe Jr. Male Sports Scholar of the Year by "Diverse: Issues in Higher Education" magazine.
Sime, who completed his undergraduate degree earlier this month, was selected as the prestigious honoree from a pool of more than a thousand nominees.
He was Kentucky's first Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar winner.
Sime finished his political science degree with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average for his entire academic career, as well as a number of impressive accomplishments on the pitch. Sime's accomplishments were all the more impressive considering English is his second language as he grew up speaking French in Guadeloupe before moving to Bradenton, Florida to attend the IMG Academy as a teenager.
"I am honored to be a recipient of the Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award," Sime said upon accepting the award at a luncheon last month. "Like Arthur Ashe, I was blessed with a loving and supportive family who helped me along the way and have done everything they could to ensure my success in life. My parents even allowed me to travel over 2,000 miles to attend college so that I could grow as an athlete and a person.
"I want to thank the University of Kentucky for giving me the opportunity to thrive both athletically and academically. Our soccer team made it to three straight NCAA tournaments and won a conference championship. Academically, the athletic department has averaged at least a 3.00 GPA for nine straight semesters. I've been blessed to be part of those accomplishments."
Sime was a team leader and a key member of one of the most successful senior classes in Kentucky soccer history. UK men's soccer teams advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sime's last three years on the team, won the program's first Conference USA regular-season championship in 2015 and earned the program's first national top-16 seed into the NCAA Tournament in 2016, his senior season.
He started 57 of the 66 games he played over his four years on the team.
"Paul is a model of what we as a program are about, as well as what we aspire to." UK head coach Johan Cedergren said. "Throughout his career he put team before self. He excelled in an unglamorous position where he may not have had many statistics to boast, but did plenty of the hard work that often goes unnoticed by the untrained eye to help us succeed as a team. His achievements in the classroom speak for themselves, but we can't say enough about how proud we are of Paul for this recognition and all his accomplishments."
As a holding midfielder, Sime's effect on games was difficult to communicate through statistics, but he played an important role in establishing Kentucky's identity as a nationally elite defense during his time at UK. That said, he did score his lone career goal at Evansville in 2014 and assisted a goal on his "Senior Night" last season in his final regular-season home match.
"Paul Sime is an outstanding example of what it means to be a Wildcat," UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. "We place a lot of value here on succeeding both in the classroom and on the field. Not only has Paul done both, but he's done so with honors.
"He's been elite in competition in leading his team to a conference championship and elite in the classroom with a 4.0 GPA. We're proud to have him representing Kentucky."
He was named UK Athletics Scholar-Athlete of the Year at the 2017 CATSPY Awards, and recently was awarded the prestigious NCAA post-graduate scholarship.
"Paul is a model student," UK men's soccer's Director of Advising Services Mike Haley said upon Sime's making the C-USA All-Academic Team in 2015. "He pursues any and all academic opportunities because he has an open mind and a thirst for educational experiences. His effort and interest in school extend well beyond completing requirements. His primary goal is not grades, it is knowledge and this results in perfect grades."
The Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars Awards, which celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2017, were established in the name of the tennis legend to honor undergraduate students of color who best exemplify academic and athletic achievement.
Inspired by Ashe Jr.'s commitment to education and excellence on the tennis court, the magazine invites every higher education institution in the country annually to nominate outstanding sports scholars. In addition to athletic ability, nominees must exhibit academic excellence and community activism. To be eligible, students have to compete in an intercollegiate sport, maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.2 or higher, be at least a sophomore academically and be active on their campuses or in their communities.
To celebrate the silver anniversary of the award, University of Richmond president Dr. Ronald Crutcher hosted an awards luncheon on the Richmond campus last month. Former student-athlete and NASA astronaut, Melvin Leland, gave the keynote address. Sime and Female Sports Scholar Nicole Evans of Illinois Softball made remarks as a part of the presentation.
"I also want to thank Diverse, the organization sponsoring the award," Sime added last month. "Minorities need to know their efforts in the classroom and on the athletic field are noticed and valued. Mr. Ashe once said, 'Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.' He did not define himself through his accomplishments, even though he had many, but through the journey he took in order to protect the rights of all people regardless of their status, and the color of their skin.
"Just like Mr. Ashe before us, I challenge us all to remain on a path where we devote ourselves to our beliefs and protect what we cherish. Regardless of our destination, we are all successful people because of the journey we are on, however, there is still so much left in that journey, so let's keep our eyes on the example set by Mr. Arthur Ashe Jr. Our failures do not matter, what matters is that we keep trying. "