Striker an outstanding student leader and a first team All-America linebacker and captain of the Sooner football team in 2014 and 2015, stepped up and spoke out following a March 2015 racially related incident on campus. He helped as a student leader to open new dialogue on campus and move forward with a healing process for the entire university community.
Striker used his ability and willingness to speak his mind and be a thoughtful leader. His impact stretched far from Owen Field, where he was instrumental in organizing the football team, as well as other student-athletes from other sports to unite and vocalize the need for change.
He told people not to identify him as just a football player but as a student of political science, who “loves everybody. I’m a people person.” Striker was always taught by his mother to be kind and treat others with respect and to reject hatred. He reminded people after the incident, “All of this has happened, and we kept it within and pushed it under the rug. After (the video), we have to take a stand. Our voices have to be heard.” Because of his leadership, student-athletes began wearing black t-shirts with UNITED on the front, often wearing them under uniforms and as game day attire.
The Otis Sullivant Award is presented to a faculty, staff or student at OU who exhibits “keen perceptivity.” The agreement establishing the prize also states that a person “who manifests intuitiveness, instant comprehension, empathy, is observant and interprets from experience” should be selected. The benefit to society and the broader community, which comes from the insight of the recipient, also is considered.
The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation and the selection committee, which is composed of faculty and staff members, students and alumni, makes the selection.
OU First Lady Molly Shi Boren who chairs the committee said, “Eric Striker is a good choice. As a student leader he has truly helped to build a stronger sense of community and family on campus. He has many times demonstrated the moral courage to speak out against injustice both on campus and in the broader society.”
“This award is being presented to Eric not as a student athlete but as a student leader who has outstanding personal qualities, said OU First Lady Molly Shi Boren.”
“When Edith established this award, she hoped it would one day recognize a University of Oklahoma student who shared the same empathy, forward thinking and courage as her dear friend and fellow journalist Otis Sullivant,” said Bob Ross, president and CEO of Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. “Edith would be so pleased knowing the first student recipient of the award, Erik Striker, was instrumental in bringing his fellow students together during a tense time on the OU campus. Eric exemplifies the keen perceptivity Edith wanted to encourage and inspire through the award.”
The late Edith Kinney Gaylord of Oklahoma City established the $500,000 Sullivant Prize endowment shortly before her death in January 2001. The award honors the late longtime Oklahoma journalist Otis Sullivant, who covered Oklahoma and national political news for several decades and was known for his ability to analyze and accurately predict political trends. Edith Kinney Gaylord was a longtime supporter of many OU programs and a pioneering journalist. She was the first woman reporter to join the New York bureau of the Associated Press, and was the second president and one of the founders of the Women’s National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
The award is presented to a faculty, staff or student at OU who exhibits “keen perceptivity.” The agreement establishing the prize also states that a person “who manifests intuitiveness, instant comprehension, empathy, is observant and interprets from experience” should be selected. The benefit to society and the broader community, which comes from the insight of the recipient, also is considered.
Striker was a leader on and off the field. He joined the Sooner football program at the start of the 2012 season and played in all 13 games as a true freshman. Voted as a team captain by his teammates prior to the 2014 and 2015 seasons, he served as a member of the Team Leadership Council in 2015.
Striker is a four-time letter winner and recipient of the Bob Kalsu Award from the Sooner Football program, the highest honor a player can received. He was a four-time Sooner Scholar and was listed on the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll all four years.
In his nomination letter, Coach Bob Stoops wrote, “Eric is very perceptive and insightful, but more importantly, he has the intelligence and courage to vocalize his values where there is a need for change or motivation.” Stoops noted that Striker is “a positive role model on the field, in the classroom and among our campus community.”
Striker, who grew up in Seffner, Florida, played football and baseball and ran track. In football, he set the school-record for career sacks with 42. In his senior year, he racked up 109 tackles, 11 sacks and 18 tackles for loss, and earned Sports Illustrated first team All-America honors.
In a supporting letter, OU Athletics Director Joe Castiglione stated, “Eric’s drive and determination elevated our level of play as the football team won the 2015 Big 12 Championship and earned its first berth College Football Playoff. And while I appreciate Eric’s contribution to that success, I will personally remember him most for his interest in serving the ‘greater good’ in a markedly more significant and long-term manner. He properly used ‘his voice’ as a student-athlete to positively influence others and bring people together.”
Striker stated, “That chain (of racism) has to be broken…because it’s taught down from generation to generation. It takes somebody to step up in a family and say, ‘This is not right. This has to be broken. This is what I’m going to teach my children. This is where it stops.’”
IMAGE: University of Oklahoma First Lady Molly Shi Boren, Chairman of the Otis Sullivant Award for Perceptivity Selection Committee, visits with Eric Striker, the first student to be named recipient of the award, which is presented to a faculty, staff or student at OU who exhibits “keen perceptivity.” The late Edith Kinney Gaylord of Oklahoma City established an endowment for the prize shortly before her death in January 2001 honoring the late longtime Oklahoma journalist Otis Sullivant. The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation and the selection committee, which is composed of faculty and staff members, students and alumni, makes the selection.