Graduating senior quarterback Damion Terry said he knew from the first day he stepped on Michigan State University’s campus that he wanted graduate.
“People are becoming more aware of how important a degree is,” Terry said.
Only 1.9 percent of the NCAA’s football players will play in professional leagues, according to association research.
This week, Terry will join thousands of Michigan State students graduating. He’s also among a growing number of student-athletes – and, in particular, African American student-athletes – who are graduating from college.
The graduation success rate (GSR) among African American student-athletes at Division I colleges increased to 77 percent in 2017, up from 74 percent the previous year. The rate has risen 21 percentage points since 2002, according to the NCAA.
NCAA officials say that improvement helped boost the graduation success rate for all Division I student-athletes to 87 percent — a new high. The graduation success rate tracks student-athletes over a six year period, including any transfer between colleges.
For Terry, a native of Erie, Pennsylvania, walking across the stage is bigger than just him, this is something that his mother has wanted for him for a long time. He said that helped make graduation “100 percent a priority.”
“Especially for me and my personal experience — I’ll be the first person in my family to walk,” Terry said. “I remember Coach D asking me on signing day what was two goals I had here. One was winning a Big Ten championship and the other one was graduating.”
Terry said his mother wasn’t able to go to college. He said she reminded him frequently about the importance of going beyond high school to college.
“My mom challenged me every day since a young age,” Terry said. “My mom had me when she was 16, so she wasn’t able to go college or ever experience that. She would always tell me, ‘I don’t want you to just finish high school and be done, but go to college.’”
And she told him that he had to graduate — athlete or not, Terry said.
Terry said the football team, under the leadership of head coach Mark Dantonio, is building a culture in which graduation is highly valued.
“Coach D when we get here expresses that he wants us to graduate and wants us to be seniors and live out our senior year,” Terry said. “He really puts an importance on that. I think it’s kind of a culture thing, so when people come here we buy into that and I think it’s in the best interest of everyone involved.
“Coach D take it serious. When coach is telling us how bad he wants to graduate it kind of makes you look in the mirror and say, ‘All right, what do you want to do here?’”
Terry said other resources at the university also helped him succeed. He said his academic adviser, Mandy Chandler, was like a second mother to him.
“It’s kind of nice that the Smith Center is connected to the weight room and our practice field along with our players lounge, ’cause that is where we spend most of our time,” Terry said.
Terry is largely aware of the help and resources around him and even went on to say that they “deserve more credit” for what goes on behind the scenes. Terry is following in the steps of some of his former teammates and setting the pace for the players on the team underneath him. A pace that was set with players before him and hopefully one that continues after him.
With only a couple days until graduation Terry could not be more excited to walk across the stage.
“Man, it’s a good feeling because school is something you do your whole life,” Terry said. “So it’s going to be exciting when I am finally done.”