Northwestern State senior football standout Chris Zirkle will represent the Southland Conference’s male competitors at the annual NCAA Student-Athlete Leadership Forum beginning Thursday.
Zirkle earned his undergraduate degree in business administration, graduating magna cum laude, last winter and is pursuing a master’s in homeland security while preparing for his final season as an offensive guard for the Demons. He is a member of NSU’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and serves as the Community Service Outreach Coordinator for that organization.
The NCAA’s Leadership Forum launched in 1997 and has been a life-changing experience for more than 5,000 student-athletes. Each Division I conference selects a male and female student-athlete from its membership to attend the annual conference.
The event provides student-athletes with “invaluable leadership skills, the experience of exploring the relationship between personal values, core beliefs and behavioral styles, and a thorough understanding of the NCAA,” says the NCAA on its website.
“This is quite an honor, and one that is well-deserved, for Chris to represent NSU and the Southland Conference on a national level at the NCAA Leadership Conference,” said Demons’ director of athletics Greg Burke. “Attending this conference will enable Chris to further develop his leadership skills and the direct beneficiaries of that will be the Demon football team and NSU athletic department. Furthermore, he will be exposed to ideas and strategies from other conferences that can be shared with NSU and our fellow conference members.”
Zirkle was nominated by associate athletics director and senior woman administrator Dr. Haley Taitano, in collaboration with assistant AD for student-athlete development Kaitlyn McKanna and Burke.
“We nominated Chris because he is the perfect representation of the three core values in our department: academic achievement, personal responsibility, and competitive success,” said Taitano. “Beyond that, he always has a smile on his face and encourages his fellow athletes to support one another and to give back to our community.”
Zirkle, a League City, Texas-Clear Springs High School product, is grateful for the opportunity.
“I truly appreciate everyone at Northwestern for nominating me for this,” said Zirkle. “This is a great life skills learning experience for me and hopefully I can bring it back to our SAAC so it will benefit everybody who is a student-athlete here.”
Last fall, he coordinated NSU Athletics participation in the National Night Out program in Natchitoches. He’s made school visits, volunteered during the 2018 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Celebration, and helped NSU student-athletes raise nearly $1,000 in December during the Natchitoches Jaycees Make A Smile Happen toy drive.
Zirkle said along with community service efforts, coordinating special events such as the upcoming Vic’s Choice Awards Dinner for student-athletes next Monday night, NSU competitors led by the SAAC adopt global initiatives that are extremely beneficial for society.
“Next week the SAAC is presenting a Sexual Harassment Awareness Night at one of our home baseball games, and we’re trying to get as many people around this community and of course among our student-athlete population to come out and support the cause. We’ll all be wearing teal ribbons to support this,” he said.
Zirkle is an All-America candidate as a Demon lineman. He was an All-Southland Conference selection as a junior.