Football seniors score brawn-brain combo at graduation
From the confetti-filled Georgia Dome following their Peach Bowl victory to the commencement platform inside TDECU Stadium, the class of 2016 has had proven success both on the field and in the classroom.
Over the weekend, 16 Cougars football players will receive their degrees from the university.
“The Peach Bowl stage was a product of a year worth of training, hard work and commitment,” Head Football Coach Tom Herman said. “They’ll remember it forever and they’ll forever be remembered as champions, but what they’re about to do is going to change their lives forever in a positive way by getting a degree.”
Earning a degree is no small task. For some players, it is more than a personal achievement.
“I worked hard in the classroom, it’s a big accomplishment for me just to be graduating,” cornerback and sports administration major Brandon Wilson said. “I’m the first person in my family (to graduate), so it’s a blessing really. It’s going to be a great feeling just to walk across the stage.”
Although graduating, Wilson has one year of eligibility remaining and will return to the Cougars’ defense next season.
In today’s college football landscape, it is easy to forget that the athletes making plays on Saturdays are also students. The most lucrative part of having the opportunity to play NCAA football is receiving a free or discounted education.
Wilson recognized the opportunity from the beginning. To him, the arrival of Herman played an instrumental role in his academic progression.
“I came in with the mindset of just getting my work done because I really didn’t want to disappoint my parents or my coaches,” Wilson said. “I just went hard in the classroom and it really paid off.”
It’s no secret that Herman takes a vested interest in his player’s lives. The former Ohio State University assistant coach made this clear in January last year.
The seniors that are now graduating had to endure all that comes with the changing of a coaching staff like new rules, plays and expectations. This group of players was up for the challenge in their senior season.
“They were immediate buy-in guys. They didn’t ask questions, they didn’t ask why, they could not see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Herman said. “They just said we’re going to follow this staff and we’re going to follow this plan and see where it takes us.”
Despite an unsure beginning to the season, the players invested and triumphed in return. What seemed like a strenuous situation actually helped them grow as both athletes and individuals.
“It’s why we get into this business: to build better husbands, fathers, employees and citizens,” Herman said. “We play this game simply as entertainment and a representation of our university, but the real reason these kids are here is to accomplish what they’re about to accomplish.”
As the players trade in their helmets and jerseys for graduation caps and gowns, it is time to see what their tenure at the University of Houston has prepared them for.
Similar to their football games, friends and family members of players will gather in the stands to celebrate all these men have achieved.
“My whole family (is attending),” Wilson said. “I got three brothers, three sisters, two of my uncles, my aunt, one of my cousins and some of my friends and family from Shreveport. It means a lot to them, I know they are very happy for me to graduate.”