DAPHNE, Ala. – University of Alabama football receiver O.J. Howard and World Cup record-holding women’s ski racer Lindsey Vonn have been voted the United States Sports Academy’s Male and Female Athletes of the Month for January.

Howard, 21, from Prattville, Ala., was instrumental in Alabama’s victory in the College Football Playoff  National Championship on Jan. 11, 2016.  He was named Offensive Most Valuable Player after compiling 208 yards and two touchdowns on just five catches in the Alabama Crimson Tide’s 45-40 win over Clemson. It was the most receiving yards ever by any Alabama player in a bowl game, and the tight end’s two touchdowns were also a career-best.

Vonn, 31, of Vail, Colo., won the gold medal and set a new women’s World Cup record for number of downhill race wins by winning her 37th in Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy, on Jan. 23, 2016.  The next day, she won the Super-G race, setting a new record for most career World Cup wins in women’s skiing, with her 63 career victories topping the record set by Austria’s Annemarie Moser-Proell in the 1970s. The 2010 Olympic gold medalist is now the winningest female skier of all time.

The runner up in the men’s balloting was Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic and third place went to golfer Jordan Spieth of the United States.

World number one male tennis player Djokovic beat Great Britain’s Andy Murray in straight sets at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena to claim a record-equaling sixth Australian Open title. The 28-year-old Serbian successfully defended his crown with a commanding 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 victory.

Spieth won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Hawaii. He scored a final round 6-under 67 and 30-under 262 for an eight-shot tournament victory.

The runner up in the women’s balloting was German tennis player Angelique Kerber and third place went to Ethiopian marathon runner Tirifi Tsegaye.

Kerber defied the odds to beat world number one Serena Williams in the Australian Open final and claim her first Grand Slam title. The seventh seed won 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in just over two hours at the Rod Laver Arena.

Tsegaye captured the women’s gold medal at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Gold Label Road Race (Dubai Marathon) in Dubai. Her winning time was 2 hours 19 minutes 14 seconds; it was a personal best.

This is the 32nd year of the Academy’s worldwide Athlete of the Year program, which is part of the institution’s annual Awards of Sport program.  Each month, the public is invited to participate by nominating and voting for the Male and Female Athletes of the Month on the Academy’s website at www.ussa.edu.  Monthly winners become eligible for the prestigious Athlete of the Year honor, which is selected at year end by an online public balloting.  Monthly and annual winners are announced on the Academy’s website, social media, and in the monthly e-newsletter, The Sport Update.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and tennis great Serena Williams were the Academy’s  Male and Female Athletes of the Year for 2015.

Based in Daphne, Ala., the United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, regionally accredited, special mission sports university created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy, call (251) 626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu.