Top 15 Best College Athlete Award


College sports allow athletes to excel at what they love to do most.

The Best College Athlete ESPY Award is an annual award that recognizes the accomplishments of college athletes. The award is usually hosted by the American broadcast television network ABC.

In this article, we will look at the top 15 college athlete ESPY award winners from the male and female categories. Carefully read through!

What Is College Athlete Award?

The College athlete award is given annually to students who show exemplary academic performance while retaining a high-level discipline in athletics.

Being a college athlete gives you an opportunity to make friends, develop a strong work ethic, build character values and also gain support and training from coaches and mentors.

The benefits of being a student-athlete in college include a team of lifelong friends, the development of a strong work ethic and other character values, and a support system from coaches and mentors.

Being a college athlete also gives you access to financial assistance, academic resources, and athletic gear, products, and programs.

What Are The Benefits of Being a Student-Athlete in College?

Here are a few benefits of being a student-athlete while in college:

1. Development of Work Ethics and Leadership Skills

Because playing a sport in college is like having a full-time while going to school, student-athletes are forced to develop a strong work ethic as they learn to balance their academic and athletic responsibilities.

This makes them more desirable in the labor market, where employers seek young adults who can balance rigorous academics with extensive practice and competition.

Leadership abilities, such as discipline, and teamwork are employable skills that student-athletes develop while participating on a team.

2. Lifelong Friendships with Teammates

Partaking in college sporting activities gives you the opportunity to interact and bond with other like-minded students.

As a student-athlete, you will be placed in an instant peer group which allows you to meet new people through team-building activities, travels, and competitions

Student-athletes are usually surrounded by teammates most of the time they are outside the class. In such gatherings, they share their passion for and grow in friendship and respect due to their commonalities.

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3. Academic Resources and Privileges

Every institution prioritizes the needs of students. Athletes receive special tutoring and study sessions from mentors and coaches.

In addition to special classes, student-athletes usually get top-notch advisors and access to state-of-the-art technology to ensure they accomplish all that’s needed to be successful in their studies and remain in their sports program.

4. Specialized Training and Collegiate Competition

Student-athletes are exposed to high-level training and competition under expert tutelage. The instruction and teachings strengthen their capacity and ability to compete.

For most college students, one of the hardest times is when they don’t go on to play in college, or during the last game of their high school season when they realize it’s the final time they will play in an organized school event.

15 Best College Athlete Award

Every year, the ESPY Awards the best college athlete for their achievements in sports.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association presents the award trophy to the sportsperson considered to be the best among those competing in the collegiate sport in the United States for a specific calendar year.

Let’s take a look at the best male and female ESPY awardees.

Best College Athlete Award – Male ESPY Awardees

#1. Bryce Young


Bryce Young is an American football quarterback Christopher who plays for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Bryce Young won the Heisman Trophy in 2021 and currently holds the record for the most passing yards in a single game by an Alabama quarterback (559).

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Young played his first college game against Missouri in 2020. In the last minutes of the third quarter at Faurot Field. Bryce Young had an exceptional 5-of-8 passing performance for 54 passing yards and two running yards on four carries that evening.

Bryce Young finished the 2020 season with 156 passing yards and one touchdown after appearing in nine games. He also took part in the game-winning play in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship. Bryce Young is one of the best Male college athletes in the world, having won the category’s most recent ESPY Award in 2022.

#2. DeVonta Smith

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DeVonta Smith plays for the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League and is one of Espy’s best male college athletes. He played college football for Alabama, where as a senior in 2020, he accumulated over 1,800 yards and 23 touchdowns.

DeVonta Smith received the Heisman Trophy for his accomplishments, in addition to several other trophies and recognitions. He was only the fourth wide receiver in history to win the Heisman Trophy, following Desmond Howard in 1991.

He won two national championships at Alabama before being selected by the Eagles as the tenth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Devona Smith’s first NFL grab resulted in his first career touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons in the first week. For the Eagles, Devonta Smith enjoyed a pleasant start, hauling in 64 passes for 916 yards and five scores.

With 916 yards, he broke the Eagle’s rookie mark for receiving yards in a calendar year.

 #3. Deshaun Watson

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Derrick Deshaun Watson is a quarterback for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League. He played collegiate football at Clemson, where he helped the team win the national championship in 2016. Watson was selected by the Houston Texans in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

The Texans won back-to-back division titles in 2018 and 2019, and Watson led the league in passing yards in 2020 after his outstanding debut season was cut short by injury. In addition, he was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his three seasons as Houston’s starting quarterback.

Deshaun Watson also has the highest lifetime passer rating and the best career completion rate of all time. He was rated the best quarterback available in the draft by Sports Illustrated, Pro Football Focus, and ESPN. Deshaun Watson is an ESPY Award-winning male college athlete.

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#4. Buddy Hield

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Buddy Hield is remarkably one of the best male college athletes’ awards winners. He is a professional basketball player from the Bahamas who plays for the Indiana Pacers in the National Basketball Association.

In 2016, he received four prestigious national players of the year awards: the John R. Wooden Award, the Naismith Award, Sporting News Player of the Year, and the Oscar Robertson Trophy.

After his senior year at Oklahoma, Hield earned the John R. Wooden Award on April 7, 2016, for best college basketball player for the 2015–16 campaign, during which he scored 25 points, 5.7 rebounds, and two assists per game, and was first in the country for three-pointers made. In 2016, Buddy Hield won the ESPY award for the best male college athlete.

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Buddy Hield has been named Big 12 Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year twice.

#5. Marcus Mariota


Marcus Mariota is a quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League. The Tennessee Titans selected him in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. From 2012 through 2014, Mariota was the starting quarterback at Oregon.

Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy as a junior in 2014, making history as the first athlete from Hawaii and a player for the University of Oregon. He also led the Titans to three straight victorious seasons. He is one of the best male college award recipients.

#6. Doug McDermott


Douglas McDermott plays for the National Basketball Association’s San Antonio Spurs. In the 2013/2014 basketball season, he was a three-time first-team player while playing college basketball at Creighton University. McDermott is one of the best Male college athletes ESPY.

As a senior in 2014, Dough McDermott finished his collegiate career with the fifth-most points in NCAA Division I men’s basketball history, earning him the title of undisputed national player of the year. McDermott was selected by the Denver Nuggets with the 11th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft after graduating from Creighton.

#7. Johnny Manziel


Johnny Manziel plays for the FCF Zappers. He spent two seasons with the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League, as well as time with the Alliance of American Football’s Memphis Express in 2019.

In his playing days, Johnny Manziel was a dual-threat quarterback who made his way to Texas A&M Aggies as a redshirt freshman. He became the first freshman and the sixth player in NCAA history to pass for 3,000 yards and carry for 1,000 yards in the same season, among several other NCAA Division I FBS and SEC records he broke.

Johnny Manziel is the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, Manning Award, and Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award after the typical season.

#8. Robert Griffin


Robert Griffin, an American football quarterback, is one of the finest. Griffin attended Baylor University, where he won the Heisman Trophy as a senior. The Washington Redskins selected him second overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, and he began his NFL career with them. Robert Griffin is an ESPY Award-winning male college athlete.

Griffin guided Washington to their first division title since 1999 during his brilliant rookie season, setting league records for a first-year quarterback’s passer rating and touchdown-to-interception ratio. He was also named Offensive Rookie of the Year and selected to the Pro Bowl. In 2012, Griffin won ESPY’s best male college athlete award.


Best Female College Athlete ESPY Awardees

9. Jocelyn Alo

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Jocelyn Alo, the best home run hitter in the history of NCAA softball, lords over home plate.

As a freshman in 2018, Alo was named NFCA National Freshman of the Year, and USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year in 2021 and 2022. In addition to that feat, she is the NCAA Division I career leader in home runs. 

Alo was drafted first overall by the Smash It Vipers in the inaugural Women’s Professional Fastpitch draft.

In 2022, Alo hit 34 home runs and none were as big as the one she launched back home in Hawaii. Alo hit career homer No. 96 against the University of Hawaii, giving her the all-time NCAA record.

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Jocelyn Alo is the best female college athletes ESPY award holder currently.

10. Katie Ledecky

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Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky was named best female athlete at the 2022 ESPY Awards.

She has won six Olympic individual gold medals and 14 world championship individual gold medals, the most in history a female swimmer has ever won.

Ledecky holds the world records in the women’s 800- and 1500-meter freestyle (long course), as well as the former 400-meter freestyle world record (long course). She also holds the women’s 500-, 1000-, and 1650-yard freestyle world records. She is widely considered to be one of the greatest Olympians of all time, as well as the greatest female swimmer of all time.

11. Naomi Osaka


Naomi Osaka is a professional tennis player from Japan. She is the first Asian player to hold the No. 1 ranking in singles, according to the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). She has won four Grand Slam singles titles. Her seven WTA Tour titles include two at the Premier Mandatory level.

Osaka is one of the world’s most commercial athletes, having been ranked eighth among all athletes in endorsement income in 2020. She was also the highest-earning female athlete of all time by annual income that year.

Osaka is a strong baseline player. She has tremendous raw power, particularly on her forehand and serves. At the age of sixteen, Osaka could hit 160 kilometers per hour (100 mph) forehands, and her serve has been clocked at up to 200 kilometers per hour (124 mph), making her one of the ten fastest servers in WTA history.

Osaka has gained significant attention as an activist, having demonstrated her support for the Black Lives Matter movement during her matches.

She was named one of the 2020 Sports Illustrated Sportspersons of the Year for her activism during her US Open championship run, and she was also named to Time’s annual list of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

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12. Lindsey Vonn

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Lindsey Vonn is a former World Cup alpine ski racer for the United States Ski Team. She won four World Cup overall championships, with three consecutive titles in 2008, 2009, and 2010, plus another in 2012. Vonn won the first gold medal for an American woman in downhill skiing at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Moving on, she also won a record eight World Cup season titles in the downhill discipline (2008–2013, 2015, 2016), five titles in super-G (2009–2012, 2015), and three consecutive titles in the combined (2010–2012).

In 2016, Vonn won her 20th World Cup crystal globe title, the overall record for men or women, surpassing Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden, who won 19 globes from 1975 to 1984. She has the second highest all-star super ranking of all skiers, men or women.

Lindsey, a multi-EPSY winner, is one of the best college athlete award winners.

13. Alex Morgan

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In 2019, Alex Morgan won best college female athlete of the year and shared the best team award with her soccer mates.

Alex Morgan is a striker and captain of the San Diego Wave FC of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), the highest division of women’s professional soccer in the United States, as well as the captain of the United States women’s national soccer team from 2018 to 2020 where she co-captained with Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe.

Shortly after her graduation from the University of California, Berkeley, where she played for the California Golden Bears, Morgan was named the best in the 2011 WPS Draft by the Western New York Flash. Moving on, she made her professional debut and helped the team win the league championship.

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In 2019, Alex Morgan, who had six goals and three assists in the World Cup and is the star of the Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League, won the Best Female Athlete award. That same year, she was a FIFA World Player of the year finalist.

Morgan helped the United States win their titles at the 2015 and 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cups, where she made it to the Dream Team for both tournaments, and also won the Silver Boot in 2019.

14. Chloe Kim

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Chloe Kim is a two-time Olympic gold medalist snowboarder from the United States. She became the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding gold medal when she won gold in the women’s snowboard halfpipe at the 2018 Winter Olympics at the age of 17.

At the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, Chloe became the first woman to win two gold medals in the halfpipe. She is also a six-time X Games gold medalist and the first woman to win two gold medals in snowboarding at the Winter Youth Olympic Games. 

Chloe won the best college athlete award in 2018 after becoming the youngest Olympic gold medal winner in snowboarding at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

15. Simone Biles

Simone Biles is an American artistic gymnast with over seven Olympic medals to her sleeve.

At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Biles won individual gold medals in the all-around, vault, and floor; bronze on the balance beam; and gold as part of the United States team, dubbed the “Final Five”. 

In 2017, Simone Biles won the ESPY award beating out tennis champion Serena Williams, WNBA star Candace Parker and record-breaking Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky.

She is the most decorated gymnast in history, having won 25 World Championship medals, and many consider her to be the greatest female gymnast of all time. She was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2022 by President Joe Biden.

See the full list of 15 Best Female College Athlete Espy Award

FAQs On Best College Athlete Award

Who got named the best athlete of 2022?

Shohei Ohtani and Katie Ledecky will be named Best Athletes at the 2022 ESPY Awards.

When did the ESPY award for best woman athlete of the year start?

The award for female student-athletes who have reached the end of their eligibility started in 1991.

Who hosts the ESPY awards?

Comedians, actors from TV and movies, and athletes have all hosted the events in the past. Samuel L. Jackson, an American movie star, is the only person to have hosted four times (in 1999, 2001, 2002, and 2009).

Who selects the ESPY award winners?

Fans are the ones that choose the winners of the ESPY Awards.


Participating in college sports helps to build self-confidence and leadership skills, which can translate to academic, work, and personal success. From a social perspective, sports are a strong tool that unites people and creates a sense of community. They develop connections that bond together people from all walks of life.


  • – Best Female Athlete ESPY Award
  • – 2022 ESPY Awards: Shohei Ohtani and Katie Ledecky honored as Best Athletes

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