Daylon McCutcheon has had to fight for his job as a starting cornerback every year he has been with the Browns. Call it stubbornness or perseverance or both, but he always comes out on top.
It is no surprise, then, eight years after leaving USC for pro football and subsequently being drafted in the third round by the Browns in 1999, McCutcheon finally accomplished what he set out to do when he turned pro; he earned his degree in sociology.
McCutcheon was 30 credits short of his degree when he decided there was more money in pro football than in whatever he could earn with a diploma, but he made a promise to his mother, Deborah Sterling, that someday he would graduate from college. It just took longer than he expected.
"For a couple years there, I got a little discouraged," he said. "It was the whole football aspect. I was in Cleveland trying to further my career. The thought of returning to USC and attending classes again was just a little too hard to think about doing at that point."
McCutcheon surprised his mother by making the graduation a Mother's Day gift to her. He arranged for several family members to be together on graduation day (May 12) on the pretense of going out for brunch. It wasn't until the car his mother was in turned down Vermont Ave. that she got the idea they were heading to USC. It wasn't until the graduation ceremony began and McCutcheon was not with the rest of the group that she knew for sure the next time she saw Daylon he would be wearing a cap and gown.
McCutcheon earned his degree working with his former academic counselor at USC, Janice Henry. She now has her own business in Nevada dedicated to helping pro athletes complete their schooling. McCutcheon worked for the last four years to complete his education, all without his mother knowing.
McCutcheon said the hardest part was not telling her he was working toward his degree because she would often bring up the subject and tell him he was setting a bad example for his three-year-old son, Dyson. He would have to say, "I know, Mom, I know. I have to get it done.
"My mom would badger me and badger me about getting that degree," he said. "I wanted to say something, but I couldn't. It was hard to keep my mouth shut. She cried for 10 minutes when I got my diploma. That made it all worth it."