December 15, 2017 Article from GOBLUERAIDERS.COM



photo of athletesMONTGOMERY  - Earning a degree is first and foremost with the Middle Tennessee football program as evidenced by a 96% graduation rate under Head Coach Rick Stockstill. Therefore, celebrating these accomplishments is a high priority as well.
The Blue Raiders also own the second-best APR in Conference USA with a 983 score and just one point behind Rice's 984. The team was also recently recognized as one of just seven teams nationally to receive the AFCA Academic Achievement award.
With the University's graduation set for Saturday and the Blue Raiders' bowl game the same day, a special ceremony for five football student-athletes was held in the team meeting room this morning in Montgomery at the Embassy Suites Hotel.
President Sidney A. McPhee and faculty athletic representative Terry Whiteside made the special trip down to the team hotel to honor the graduates.
"It is fitting and proper that we take time to recognize the academic achievements of these athletes," McPhee said. "Dr. Whiteside and I wanted these students to have a least a taste of the pomp and ceremony that they would have experienced on Saturday's commencement on campus."
The student-athletes going through the ceremony this morning were: Jim Cardwell (finance), Jahmal Jones (liberal studies), Mike Minter Jr. (liberal studies), Brent Stockstill (leisure sport & tourism/graduate degree), and Charvarius Ward (liberal studies).
Stockstill, who still has another season to play, has an undergraduate and now a graduate degree. He received his undergraduate degree in Leisure Sport & Tourism and his master's degree in Sports Management.
"It's a great feeling to have completed my undergrad and masters while still playing football," said Stockstill. "I have had a lot of people in my corner helping me out through this process and they deserve a lot of credit as well.
"I can't say enough about President McPhee for taking the time to come down early and perform a special ceremony. He's a great man and always looks out for the student athletes, so we are all very grateful to him for taking the time."
Cardwell, who is the holder for the Blue Raiders' strong kicking game, is ready to put his finance degree to work.
"I am excited about getting my degree but it's a little surreal with us being at a bowl game," said Cardwell. "My mom is really excited because I graduated a semester early and the fact I already have a job is extra special. I just really enjoy spending these last few days with my friends and teammates.
"I am very thankful for Dr. McPhee taking the time to conduct this ceremony because this is a very busy time for him and his effort does not go unrecognized."
Whiteside, who serves as dean of the MTSU College of Behavioral and Health Sciences, planned to remain in Montgomery through the game, but McPhee flew back to Murfreesboro Friday night to preside over the University's two commencement ceremonies. The President was to fly back to Montgomery Saturday afternoon in time for the bowl's kickoff.
The Blue Raiders will hit the field for the final time this year on Saturday at 7 PM against Arkansas State. A total of 11 players will compete in the game with a degree already in hand.