2003 – T.J. Ford (Texas)
Terrance Jerod Ford was nicknamed “T. J.” at birth by his mother, and after a highly successful high school basketball career, he became the first freshman player in NCAA history to lead the nation in assists (8.27 per game) during the 2001-2002 season. He followed that up by winning the Wooden Award in only his second season at the University of Texas, helping lead the team to its first Final Four since 1947. However, Ford’s NBA career was cut short due to complications around injuries to his spinal cord, which is obviously a very serious matter. He bounced around four NBA teams in eight seasons, but could never regain his college form. These days, Ford runs his namesake T. J. Ford Foundation, which helps participants achieve their academic, personal and civil goals.