Stevens: Lobos Fanning & Williamson Receive NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarships

March 21, 2012

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

Lobos Jael Fanning and Kelly Williamson have different plans for the $7,500 post-graduate scholarship handed to them by the NCAA.

Fanning plans to spend it. Williamson plans to save it.

The good news concerning post-graduate life was pretty sweet for Fanning when she found out she was one of 58 fall-sports, student-athletes nationally, who were awarded the $7,500 scholarship.

On Wednesday, Fanning found exactly the right place to spend it. She was accepted into the University of New Mexico's physical therapy program.

"I have wanted to be a physical therapist since I was a junior in high school," said Fanning, a four-time recipient of the Mountain West Academic All-Conference Award and three-time MW Scholar-Athlete Award honoree. "This scholarship is really going to come in handy."

While Fanning has some immediate needs for her NCAA bucks, Williamson will be leaving her $7,500 in the NCAA banks for at least a couple of years. The 2011 Capital One Academic All-America Division I Volleyball First Team player plans to play some pro ball first.

"I have until 2015 to use it," said Williamson. "I still plan on going to Europe and playing one or two, maybe three, years of pro ball. But I plan on graduate work in Conservation Biology."

Kelly Williamson

Williamson, always the planner, hopes to use her NCAA scholarship oversees. She also is planning to spend a couple of years in the Peace Corp - depending on what happens with pro volleyball.

If you are familiar with the NCAA ads on how the finish line for most NCAA athletes lies in the work force and not on the playing fields, you can quickly appreciate how Fanning and Williamson took advantage of their educational opportunities at UNM.

These two Lobos excelled in the classroom maybe even more than they excelled in the competitive arena - which is difficult to do. Williamson and Fanning are two outstanding student-athletes - which is why they were awarded the NCAA scholarship.

To qualify for the NCAA award, student-athletes must excel academically and athletically, be in their final year of eligibility and plan to pursue graduate study. Student-athletes must also maintain at least a 3.2 grade-point average and be nominated by their institution's faculty athletics representative.

"Anything you can say about the epitome of what a student-athlete is, Jael encompasses it," said Kit Vela, UNM's women's soccer coach. "She is so deserving of this. She is an incredible person and an incredible student and she grew into an incredible soccer player."

Said Jeff Nelson, UNM's volleyball coach: "Kelly is an amazing and unique person. She gives of herself 100 percent in everything she does. Her commitments to the classroom, to her community, and to her sport are at an unbelievable level."

Williamson, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, is the volleyball programs first two-time Academic All-American and UNM's first repeat recipient. She was a Rhodes Scholar candidate in 2010. She was an All-Mountain West selection in 2011 and is a four-time member of the All-MW Academic team. She has a 4.0 with a major in Conservation Biology.

Fanning has a similar resume of achievement in the classroom and in her sport. She was Second-Team All-Mountain the 2011 and made the 2011 CoSIDA/Capital One Academic All-District 7 Women's Soccer Team. She has a 4.07 with a major in Nutrition.

Williamson is still facing a few interviews in order to become a pro. Fanning had a big interview, too - when applying for UNM's three-year physical therapy program.

"I interviewed this month," she said. "I laid everything out on the table at the end and I got a little emotional. I just told them how badly I wanted to do this and I got a little teary. I wasn't just a robot up there answering questions. I wanted them to know how badly I wanted to do this."

Fanning and Williamson says there is a message in this NCAA scholarship for student-athletes and students.

"You won't be playing your sport forever," said Fanning. "Your future is really your education. You have to decide what you are going to do with the rest of your life and prepare for that, too."

Williamson and Fanning both played in the NCAA postseason as Lobos and both achieved at high levels. Williamson will play pro ball for a few years, but said she definitely will use her NCAA scholarship for post-graduate study.

"I'm excited to have this scholarship," said Williamson.

Coach Vela said there also is a message from this NCAA award that all future Lobos should consider.

"I think what it says is that even though the University of New Mexico might not be as well-known academically as some schools might be, you can still have success here," said Vela. "We have Rhodes Scholars here and post-graduate winners and All-Americans.

"Part of this message should be that you can come to UNM and succeed at a high level. It's how hard you work; what you put into it."

For Fanning and Williamson, it's easy to see what they put into their work on the playing surface and in the classroom - just about everything.