Wrestler Ben Askren has made a lasting impression at Missouri as a world-class athlete. It’s his unique personality, however, that sets him apart.
That outgoing, upbeat side of Askren is what he is using to fuel his 2007 ESPY campaign. Askren has been nominated by ESPN for 2007’s Best Male College Athlete.
The ESPY Awards, which will air at 8 p.m. on July 15, are decided by online fan voting. Askren is trying to make as many fans as possible before that time.
“I’ve been trying to network ever since I found out,” Askren said. “I tell my friends to tell their friends to tell their friends.”
Askren, who finished his career at Missouri 153-8 at 174 pounds, graduated with back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007.
Texas forward Kevin Durant, Ohio State center Greg Oden and Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith are the other nominees for the award, but Askren says he isn’t nervous.
Those chances are increasing every day as Askren is taking some creative steps towards getting his name out.
“I text messaged my entire phone book, which is like 300 or 400 people, and told them to tell everyone they know,” Askren said, laughing. “I sent e-mails to a bunch of high school wrestling coaches, and some of my friends posted messages on state wrestling forums.”
But those methods are only the beginning of what has become a national internet push.
“I started a Facebook group,” Askren said. “My friends started a couple also.”
Facebook.com is a social network Web site that connects millions of people worldwide. Askren is taking advantage of this free service, starting the group “Please vote for me so I can win an ESPY.” The group has grown to more than 1,700 members in just two days of existence, and that total is creeping higher with each passing day.
Perhaps more impressive is how much support Askren is receiving from ordinary fans. There are five Facebook groups aimed at recruiting votes for the Mizzou graduate, some of which were created by people who have never met Askren.
One of those people is Ethan Nelson, a 17-year-old from Viola, Wisconsin. Nelson has followed Askren throughout high school and college and saw an opportunity to help the wrestler get some recognition.
“I think that the Facebook groups will help tremendously,” Nelson said in a Facebook message. “I have people that are voting and they don’t follow wrestling at all. I think he is getting more votes than he knows.”
Ever confident, Askren said he has only given brief thought to an acceptance speech. So what would a personality like Askren say in front of a national audience?
“I’d keep it pretty serious,” Askren said. “You know, thank everyone and stuff like that.”