Billy Mills has been an inspiration to many for decades.
SAN DIEGO — The NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award was presented to Billy Mills, Lakota, who spent his early years on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota before earning an athletics scholarship to the University of Kansas.
Mills received the award at the NCAA convention in San Diego this past Friday, January 17, 2014.
Mills went on to win a gold medal in the 1964 Olympic Games, serve in the military, become a successful businessman and co-found a nonprofit organization that serves American Indian youth. Mills, a tribal citizen of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, has been an inspiration to American Indian and non-Natives since.
“I am humbled to be considered a colleague of tonight’s honorees,” Mills said while accepting the Theodore Roosevelt Award. “Your sports performances have inspired many. But when I sat and listened and watched your passion for humanitarian deeds, I was taken on a journey, a powerful journey, to the center of my soul.”
The award is named after the former U.S. president whose concern for the conduct of college athletics led to the formation of the NCAA in 1906. The award is given annually to an individual for whom competitive athletics in college and attention to physical well-being afterward have been important factors in a distinguished career of national significance and achievement.
“Sport helped me in so many ways,” Mills said. “As a young person, sport helped me meet the winds of change that continue to occur in our rapidly changing world. It helped me take advantage of opportunities that ultimately await all of us. I was fortunate to have great leaders, great coaches, great teachers and mentors throughout my sports career.”