MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — It’s not often football players get to graduate and play a game in the same day, but that will be the case Saturday for a handful of Blue Raiders.
Middle Tennessee will hold two special in-person graduation ceremonies Saturday at Floyd Stadium for May, August and December 2020 graduates. Seven football players plus former quarterback and current student assistant Jordan Middleton will be among those receiving degrees.
While the football players won’t be able to get their degrees in person, since they’ll be playing for the Palladium Trophy in a game at Troy, it will be a special day nonetheless.
“It’s different because we’re not going to be here for it, and it doesn’t feel like graduation because they still have a couple weeks left of school, but it’s still special for them,” head coach Rick Stockstill said. “I’m proud of those guys. That’s the most important thing they can do when they go to school. … The most important thing they can do is leave here with a degree.
“We put an emphasis on it, and I talk to them all the time about it. I’m proud of those guys.”
The seven players include Reed Blankenship, D.J. Delfendahl, Raheme Fuller, Will Gilchrist, Russ Hiett, John Turner and Blake Catlett.
The group is full of leaders who’ve helped Middle Tennessee offensively, defensively and on special teams.
“I’m super proud of those guys,” quarterback Asher O’Hara said. “It’s hard to get your degree, and these guys are doing it with playing football every day and putting in a lot of hours into that. It’s definitely something to be proud of.”
It will be a particularly special day for Blankenship, who will play in his home state a week prior to his senior day against Florida Atlantic. He’s played in Alabama twice in his college career, both coming during the 2017 season when MT went to UAB in conference play then beat Arkansas State in the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama.
“I’m excited to go back,” he said. “Just going back to ‘Bama and getting that king of home feel, I’m excited for that. It’ll be a lot of fun.”
The graduates will truly define the term “student-athlete” Saturday, that’s for sure.