SEU Wins 6 Champions of Character Awards for Fall Season

It’s been an amazing fall season for Fire Athletics! Our teams and athletes keep pulling in award after award, winning tournaments and breaking records. (Check out our stats!)

We are honored that our athletic teams are part of the the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), the governing body of small athletics programs that are dedicated to character-driven intercollegiate athletics. The NAIA and SEU agree that while teamwork and dedication are essential to athletic achievement, student-athletes also need a well-rounded foundation. This means that the heart of their college experience should include what the NAIA refers to as the Five Core Values — integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership.

Each season, each sport’s head coaches throughout the NAIA vote on the athletes (one per sport) that best exemplify these values. These athletes are awarded the Champion of Character Awards. 

SEU Fire Athletics has many such athletes representing us well both on and off the field. We’re honored that our own student athletes won all five Sun Conference Champion of Character Awards for the fall season plus the award for the Mid-South Conference for football! “We are all very proud of the example they set within their sport and on campus, ” said Drew Watson, Director of Athletics. 

Here are the details on these amazing student athletes. You make us proud … Go Fire!

Fall 2017 Champions of Character

Football: Collin Thomas
International Business, ’17

Fire senior defensive back Collin Thomas was selected as the Mid-South Conference Sun Division’s Champion of Character recipient for the 2017 season. He was voted “Best in Major” for all international business students, and is the first international business student to graduate from Southeastern with a 4.0. Thomas is one of four directors of CHARGE- a Lakeland Children’s outreach program and is a member of Southeastern’s LEAD team (Leaders Engaging Athletes in Discipleship). Thomas helped the Fire win their third consecutive conference title, and appear in the NAIA Football Championship Series for the second time.


Men’s Cross Country: Trae Miller
Communication, ’18

A native of Fort Ashby, West Virginia, Trae Miller is a member of the Army Reserves and ROTC. Earlier this year, Miller competed in the Army Ten Miler, where he finished 81st in a field of 25,788 runners. Miller also organized and coached the first place ROTC team in the country at this same event. Throughout his time at Southeastern, the Miller has been part of several campus groups, including the Department of Spiritual Formation, the Department of Student Engagement, and the RDG Dance Group. He has graciously volunteered his time and served as the leader for numerous cross country team service projects, including the cleanup of Crystal Lake Middle School and Holloway Park in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. This past summer, Miller volunteered at Elevation Church in North Carolina and started a nonprofit radio station.  

Women’s Cross Country: Mariah Higgins
Multidisciplinary Studies, ’18

Mariah Higgins is a native of Sarasota, Florida. She has served as the cross country team chaplain, organized team service projects and formulated a team Bible study. She invests a great deal of her time as a student team leader and tutor at The Porch Light, an organization that helps child trafficking victims. Higgins has also served on mission trips to Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. This past semester, she volunteered as a mentor for a group of freshmen in SEU’s First Year Experience program.


Volleyball: Kelsey Morton
Social Work, ’18

This is Kelsey Morton’s third consecutive season of being named the Champion of Character Award recipient. In addition to her 283 kills on the volleyball court, Morton has led multiple mission trips to Austria to work with refugees, and leads the CHARGE Lakeland outreach, which assists children in impoverished neighborhoods.


Women’s Soccer: Sydni Brookhouser
Communication, ’18

Sydni Brookhouser, who holds the position of goalkeeper for SEU Fire Women’s Soccer, volunteered full days at a hurricane shelter in her hometown when Hurricane Irma hit Florida. She brought meals to people, and gave guidance and direction, and was an integral part of the team that kept the shelter running. A total of 3,700 people and 400 pets were served during that time.


Men’s Soccer: Tyler Gay
Practical Ministries, 17 + MAML, ’18

Tyler Gay earned his undergraduate degree in Practical Ministries, and is now working toward a master’s in Ministerial Leadership at SEU. Gay is the youth pastor at Edgewood Baptist Church, performs with SEU Worship and has led mission trips all over the world.




Learn more about the NAIA Champions of Character program.