Graduating Tiders Have Busy Saturday

Three current and five former Crimson Tide football players will be awarded their undergraduate degrees on Saturday as The University of Alabama holds its August Commencement exercises at 9 a.m. in Coleman Coliseum.

Current Alabama players will have a busy day. "I'll walk and then I'll rush over to the scrimmage," said junior offensive tackle Drew Davis. Other current Tide players set to receive degrees in summer commencement exercises are senior safety Rashad Johnson and senior quarterback John Parker Wilson.

"We are really pleased and happy that we have three players that are going to graduate on Saturday," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "John Parker Wilson, Drew Davis and Rashad Johnson, are guys who have certainly impacted this team in a positive way. I want to congratulate them and their families and I know they are extremely happy. This is what we want guys to do when they come to The University of Alabama. This is what affects the quality of their life forever."

Johnson, a preseason All-SEC safety, will earn his degree in Arts and Sciences. He said he hopes eventually to continue his education in law school.

"This is a big accomplishment," Johnson said. "It was my main focus when I came here as a walk-on. My education was definitely a big issue in deciding to come to The University of Alabama. I knew I would get a great education. Just being able to put The University of Alabama graduate on my resume is a big thing to me. It's a big accomplishment for me and my family. My mom and dad went to college, but neither one finished with a college degree. So having a college degree is important to me.

"My parents always stressed education and I made good grades."

Wilson, who is a three-year starter at quarterback and holds single season records for pass attempts, completions, touchdowns and passing yards, will earn a Marketing degree on Saturday.

"I think it's a huge deal to come in here and four years later and get a degree," Wilson said. "It's an exciting time for me and my family. To be able to accomplish this after so much work has been put into this is exciting to me."

He said he would probably pursue a second major rather than graduate school, but added, "I'm going to get with my advisor and worry about that later. Right now all I'm concentrating on is football."

Davis, who earned the Bart Starr Most Improved Player Award following spring practice, will receive his undergraduate degree in Marketing.

"This accomplishment is the end to a lot of hard work. Like Coach Saban says, ‘really impact the quality of your life.' I plan on looking at a second degree or master's degree. I am talking to advisors now to see what best suits me."

Other current Crimson Tide players who have earned an undergraduate degree are senior center Antoine Caldwell (Consumer Science) and senior wide receivers Will Oakley (Marketing) and Nikita Stover (Human Environmental Science). Five of UA's nine scholarship football seniors will have earned their undergraduate degrees prior to the start of the 2008 season. Davis would push that number to six, but is only a junior in terms of athletic eligibility.

Five former UA players will also graduate on Saturday, including Charles Hoke (Finance), Zeke Knight (Human Environmental Studies), Terrence Jones (Human Environmental Studies), Tyrone Prothro (Human Environmental Studies) and B.J. Stabler (General Business).

Saban spoke specifically to Prothro's accomplishment. Prothro was an outstanding wide receiver whose career was ended by a broken leg. Saban said he did not know Prothro well, "but I have a tremendous amount of respect for him." The coach pointed out that any athlete can be an injury away from retirement and that it was a tribute to Prothro that he stayed focused and continued to a successful conclusion of his education.

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