Hadl, seniors honored at Jayhawk Senior Celebration
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas Athletics recognized some of its top previous and current student-athletes and presented the 2019 class of 109 graduating seniors their K Rings at the Senior Celebration inside the Kansas Union Monday night. Jayhawk football legend, Ring of Honor member and Kansas Athletics Hall of Famer John Hadl was presented with the K Club Lifetime Service Award, while four Kansas seniors were awarded with top student-athlete honors.
K Club representatives presented the K Rings to the student-athletes as they were announced by their respective coaches to open the ceremony before Director of Athletics Jeff Long gave the welcome address.
“Soon, many of you will be reaching that ultimate goal of graduation and leaving the University of Kansas,” Long said to the student-athletes. “Please know as you go, that the K Ring symbolizes the ties that bind all of you to those who came before and those who come after. I hope you know in your hearts that the University of Kansas will always be your home. Once A Jayhawk, Always A Jayhawk.”
Charlie Hillier (men’s golf) and Kylee Kopatich (women’s basketball) were named the Dr. Robert E. Frederick Senior Scholar Athletes of the Year, while Braden Kleinschmidt (men’s track & field) and Grace Hagan (soccer) were presented with Prentice Gautt Postgraduate Scholarships during the ceremony, which followed a reception inside the Union Ballroom.
Hadl, who was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by K Club President Eric Patterson and K Club Vice President Beth Llewellyn, was a hometown kid who came to the University of Kansas from Lawrence High. His versatility propelled him to exceed both as a halfback and quarterback, becoming the first Kansas placer to be picked twice for All-America honors (1960-61). With Hadl running the offense, the Jayhawks were ranked in the top-20 his junior and senior seasons. As a team captain, Hadl led his team to the program’s first-ever bowl victor over Rice in the 1961 Bluebonnet Bowl.
Following his playing career at KU, Hadl enjoyed a 16-year career as a professional quarterback, most notable with the San Diego Chargers, becoming a six-time Pro Bowler. Playing in three AFL Championship games, Hadl was also named the 1971 NFL Man of the Year and the 1973 National Football Conference Player of the Year, going on to be named to both the Sand Diego Chargers and College Football Halls of Fame.
After retiring from football, Hadl returned to KU as an assistant coach and helped lead the Jayhawks to the 1981 Hall of Fame Bowl. After a brief stint as an NFL position coach, Hadl joined the Williams Education Fund staff, and for 30 years, he assisted with the fundraising efforts for athletic renovations which included football facilities, Allen Fieldhouse and Hoglund Ballpark.
Hillier and Kopatich were recognized as the top senior scholar-athletes and give the award named for Dr. Robert E. Frederick, former Director of Athletics and Professor at the University of Kansas. The award, presented by Dr. Bernie Kish and Long, pays tribute to Dr. Frederick’s dedication to excellence at KU and was named in his honor when he retired as the Director of Athletics in 2001.
Hillier carries a 3.21 grade point average in liberal arts and sciences and has been named to the Athletics Director’s Honor Roll four times, and is a three-time Academic All-Big 12 First Team member. He also earned the distinction of being named an Academic All-American.
As a Jayhawk golfer, Hillier has been an integral part of the Jayhawk program, as he has competed in all but one tournament in his career at KU. He ranked second on the KU team in scoring average, both his junior and senior seasons. Hillier has three top-10 finishes this season, including an individual title.
For his career, Hillier has 13 top-10 finishes, including six placings in the top-five. During his four years, he has led the KU team in scoring nine times. Currently, Hillier he has helped the team earn a ranking of No. 29 nationally, which qualifies them to compete in an NCAA regional for the fourth-consecutive year. Last year, Hillier’s consistent performances helped advance the team to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2000.
Kopatich will graduate this spring with a degree in sport management and currently carries a 3.65 GPA. Kopatich has been named to the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll seven times and recognized as an Academic All-Big 12 team member three times.
As an athlete, Kopatich has made a tremendous impact on the Kansas women’s basketball program. At the beginning of her senior campaign, she became the 29th Jayhawk to reach the 1,000-point scoring plateau. Kopatich finished her career as the seventh Jayhawk in program history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists and 200 steals.
During her career, Kopatich was an active member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, and served as the vice president for the 2018-19 academic year. She spearheaded SAAC community outreach with the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence and Douglas County Special Olympics. Also, in 2019, she received the Outstanding Woman Student Advancing Athletics Award, present by the Emily Taylor Center.
To honor the lifetime service of Prentice Gautt, the late Associate Commissioner of the Big 12, the conference established 24 postgraduate scholarships to be awarded to two seniors from each institution who have demonstrated their commitment to excellence in academics and have pledged to continue their education in graduate school. Kleinschmidt and Hagan were presented the award Monday by Paul Buskirk, associate athletics director for student-athlete support services, along with faculty athletics representative, Dr. Susan Stagg-Williams.
Kleinschmidt is set to graduate with a 3.90 GPA as an accounting major with a math minor. As a member of the track & field team, Kleinschmidt is a five-time Athletic Director’s Honor Roll member and a three-time Academic All-Big 12 honoree.
As an athlete, Kleinschmidt posted multiple top-10 finishes in his indoor and outdoor collegiate career. As a long jumper during indoor competition, he finished in the top-10 a total of 15 times and has currently notched nine top-10 finishes in his outdoor career.
After graduating this May, Kleinschmidt plans to attend graduate school at KU where he will pursue his master’s degree in accounting.
Hagan is a three-time Academic All-Big 12 honoree and a seven-time Athletic Director’s Honor Roll member. Hagan achieved this excellence in the classroom as a biology major, maintaining a 3.73 GPA.
On the soccer pitch, Hagan will go down as one of the best to ever wear a Kansas uniform. During the 2018 season, she became just the second Jayhawk in program history to tally 25 goals and 15 assists in a career.
Hagan is a two-time First Team All-Big 12 member and a three-time All-Region selection. During her four seasons on the KU front line, she helped the Jayhawks to a pair of second round appearances in the NCAA tournament.
During her student-athlete career, Hagan was also an active member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. In 2019, she received the Marlene Mawson Exemplary Student-Athlete Award, which is given to a female student-athlete who achieves excellence in their sport, classroom and community.
Hagan will attend medical school in the fall of 2019 at the University of Kansas.
“The K Ring will remind each and every one of you of all of the blood sweat and teams you put in to your career to make you the person you are today,” Kopatich said while delivering the senior address at the end of the ceremony. “The ring symbolizes the moments that define us, the moments we could like we couldn’t go on, and the moments we felt like we were on top of the world.”