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Thread: The Graduate
Sunday, July 30, 2006
By Casey Brown
Sometimes the ball is simply out of reach for Rams wide receiver Shaun McDonald. Maybe the pass was a little low or too high but there is always the next opportunity over the course of practice or in the game to make a true catch.
McDonald came to terms recently with another opportunity over which he had more control. It was an object he had never wrapped his hands around but now it is in his possession: a college degree.
McDonald declared himself eligible for the 2003 NFL Draft and left Arizona State University with just one semester remaining before graduation. That move added McDonald to the 46 percent of college football players that fail to graduate within six years of enrolling at their respective universities.
Three years after being drafted by the Rams in the fourth round of the ’03 draft, McDonald was back in Tempe, not as a student-athlete…just a student.
“I spent a lot of time in class while I was playing football there (Arizona State) and I only had a semester left, so I figured it would be a waste to let all that go and not go back for just one semester,” McDonald said. “Once I got the off-season schedule down, I decided to go back.”
By staying in touch with Arizona State officials and with the help of Rams Player Development Coordinator Ray Ogas, McDonald now has a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies.
“He (Ray) helped me with what I needed to do to get into the program. He kept me in contact with the people who run the education program with the NFL,” McDonald said. “It was definitely worth it.”
Ogas, in his seventh year with the Rams, has helped McDonald, Isaac Bruce, Marshall Faulk and Orlando Pace pursue their degrees.
“Some guys will come in right away and say, ‘Ray, I don’t want to let it go and drift away from it (graduation),” Ogas said. “They’re pretty good about it. When you bring it to their attention, they say, ‘Hey, you know, I think I’m going to get this taken care of.’”
The NFL player development department will reimburse players returning to school up to $15,000 per year for tuition costs.
McDonald saw a significant increase in his grade point average following his return to the classroom. He credits an increased focus and a higher level of maturity for his 4.0 GPA in the last 12 hours of his undergraduate study.
“I had more time to concentrate,” said McDonald, who had compiled a 2.57 GPA in his earlier stay at ASU. “I’ve definitely matured a lot since being in the league. I’m a lot older and I took it a lot more serious then when I was in school.”
For his dedication and high marks in the classroom, the league presented McDonald with the 2006 NFL Continuing Education Program Recognition Award. The award is intended to honor student-athletes who have overcome great personal, academic and/or emotional odds to achieve academic success.
Ogas’ advice to NFL players without a college degree is simple. He says, “Complete it. Get it done. Get it over with as soon as possible. The longer you let it go, the harder it’s going to be for you to go back to school.”
Just as the extra football work in the off-season could reward McDonald with trips to the endzone, the extra work put into completing graduation prepares McDonald for a productive career after the NFL.
“It was a little inconvenient to have to go back and forth. I had to go back and forth on the weekends but it’s definitely worth it when you get it all done,” McDonald said. “I only have to think about football now. I don’t have to worry about going back (and getting the degree). I can just focus on football.”
Re: The Graduate
CONGRATULATIONS TO SHAUN McDONALD!
BOY! THOSE RAMS ARE A SMART BUNCH!
NOW ON TO THE BUSINESS OF THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE.
Re: The Graduate
Good Job McDolnald!!Your doing great things on and off the field!
Re: The GraduateINTERDISCIPLINARY STUDIES???