Kody Bliss, Joe Cope, David Irons, Will Herring and Patrick Martyn all walked at graduation services at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum to run the total to 11 members of the 2006 Aubun team who have already graduated and will play this season.
Bliss (business marketing with honors), Cope (economics), Herring (exercise science), Irons (sociology) and Martyn (business) all took part in a small ceremony at the football complex before the big event where they got a chance to talk with the families of their fellow players and also meet with Athletic Director Jay Jacobs.
"Graduation just makes you so happy," Cope tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "It's like a lifelong dream. A lot of people set their goals to graduate from high school and college is just something we stress so much here at Auburn.
"It's a real cool thing to graduate with your friends. Me and Will are roommates and graduating together. You also have Kody and Sparky (Martyn) and David. It's a real cool thing to have friends on the team you're graduating with."
Bliss, Martyn, Herring and Cope take a photo before graduation. Irons couldn't be present to join them.
Other players who have already earned degrees are running back Carl Stewart (political science), wide receiver Lee Guess (business marketing), tight end Cole Bennett (business administration), linebacker Karibi Dede (rehab special education), running back Tre Smith (business) and nose guard Josh Thompson (physical education). Because of those players and guys like Jason Campbell, Bret Eddins, Tommy Jackson and others before them, the push to graduate early and play as a graduate student is something alive and well at Auburn although it requires a lot of work to get that done.
"It's awesome to get it done early," Cope says. "It's just a weight off your shoulders because you get that goal accomplished. Now I can take other classes I'm interested in and work on a double major and my masters. Once you get it out of the way it's so fulfilling to you and your family.
"People don't understand that it's two full-time jobs," he adds. "Being a student is a full-time job for all students. Being a football player on top of that is two full-time jobs. You have to weigh your time, but you also need time to sleep and socialize with your friends. It's hard and it calls for a different person to do this. We've got a special group here at Auburn and our coaches stress getting a degree. That makes it easier, but it's still hard."
The current football players weren't the only athletes to walk on Monday as former Tiger standout and current Tigers Unlimited employee Haven Fields walked to receive his Master's Degree in Higher Education Administration with a minor in Sports Management. His undergraduate degree is in Exercise Physiology. Fields says the day is a special one for his family.
"It means so much more because I never thought I would have a master's by now," Fields says. "I figured it would be later down the road because I thought I would still be playing ball, but the old incentive to have a backup plan and to know football had to end one day, that made it even sweeter to come back to Auburn and get a second degree.
"I have a lot of family here," Fields says. "For my undergrad I didn't walk, but I told my mom that with everybody coming down I would definitely walk this time. It feels great. I can't describe it. I'm sure it's going to be an emotional day at some point and with having them here."
Also earning his degree on Monday was former Auburn basketball player Adam Harrington. He came back to campus this summer to finish his degree in business management and was happy to finally get it done after spending much of the last three seasons playing pro basketball overseas or in the NBDL. Harrington says that he plans to play this season in Italy and is leaving just after the first football game against Washington State.
A former teammate with Harrington was also in town visiting as Derrick Bird dropped in and spoke with Virgil Starks and some of the other academic advisors. After playing two seasons in the NBDL, Bird says he injured a knee while training and hung up his sneakers. He's now heading into his second year as an assistant principal back home in Michigan.