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Celebrating the 2015 Graduates

Every year more than 460,000 college athletes compete while pursuing an education, and each spring thousands of them receive their diplomas. It’s a moment to celebrate.

Only a fraction of student-athletes will go on to play professionally, so for most, graduation marks the end of their athletic careers. They will use the lessons learned along the way to pursue careers in medicine, communications, education, business, athletics administration and many more fields.

Additionally, in the past 11 years, more than 14,300 former college athletes who left without graduating have returned to campus to earn degrees. NCAA rules allow schools to fund scholarships for these returning students, and we know many of them come back. Also, the NCAA established a degree-completion award program to help former college athletes graduate. The award provides them with an amount equivalent to tuition and fees and a book allowance.

This month we celebrate all student-athlete graduates. By competing in college sports, they have learned important skills such as leadership, time management and teamwork, which will prepare them for life after graduation. These college athletes succeeded on the field and in the classroom. Now it’s time to conquer the next chapter in their lives.


Derrick Coleman

Syracuse basketball star Derrick Coleman left college in 1990 to realize his dreams of playing in the NBA but promised his mother that he would still earn his degree. Twenty-five years later, after taking his remaining classes in secret, he surprised her with the diploma he earned. 

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Peter Hooley

Albany men’s basketball student-athlete Peter Hooley is graduating with a dual degree in journalism and psychology, and his writing portfolio includes a New York Post column. He will deliver the student address at the university’s commencement.

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Kate Murphy

Elon women’s soccer goalkeeper Kate Murphy will graduate this spring with the intangible skills developed while playing a sport and working. She explored her passion for journalism through a prestigious News 21 internship

Bobby Bell

On Thursday, May 14, 2015, Bobby Bell walked across the stage to receive his degree from the University of Minnesota. Fifty-six years after his time as a standout on the Gopher football team, Bell fulfilled a promise to his late father. The 74-year-old Bell refers to completing his degree as “the top of the pyramid."

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Stanford men’s basketball

Three starters for the Stanford men’s basketball team – Anthony Brown, Stefan Nastic and Chasson Randle – have already completed their undergraduate degrees and are working on their master’s degrees during the 2014-15 academic year.

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David Helton

Duke linebacker David Helton has grabbed college by the horns, from graduating with a 3.64 GPA to volunteering at the Durham Rescue Mission.  However, he will miss his graduation ceremony for the interview of a lifetime: a possible career with the New York Jets.  

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PJ Nassar

Western New England University men’s tennis player PJ Nassar excelled on the court and in the classroom, leading the tennis team as the team captain and graduating this spring after earning a perfect 4.0 GPA in his finance and accounting degree program. He also credits athletics with helping him manage his diabetes.

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Mike Rose

North Carolina State football player Mike Rose never imagined he would go to college. At the breakfast for all graduating student-athletes, he thanked trainers, coaches and academic support staff, saying “it takes a village” to help student-athletes compete at the highest level and earn their degrees.

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Anna Kottkamp

Notre Dame rower and environmental science major Anna Kottkamp graduates this spring with a perfect 4.0 GPA and multiple academic honors, including an NCAA Elite 89 award. She has been named valedictorian of Notre Dame’s undergraduate class of 2015.

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Parker Ehinger

One of 54 student athletes to graduate from Cincinnati, football captain Parker Ehinger not only earned one more championship ring, but a diploma as well.  Graduating in four years with a degree in criminal justice, Ehinger proves why “student” comes first in “student-athlete.” 

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Malcolm Canada

Auburn basketball player Malcolm Canada became homeless at the age of 12. With the help of his AAU coach who became his legal guardian, he beat the seemingly insurmountable odds before him, earning a scholarship – and a college degree – from Auburn. 

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Derrick Morgan

Indiana sprinter Derrick Morgan considers himself much more than an athlete. In 2014, he studied abroad in London, and this summer he plans to travel to Vietnam with the Coach for College program, where he will teach biology and coach soccer. Morgan will begin law school at Indianapolis University-Purdue University Indianapolis in the fall.

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