14 Vol Football Players to Graduate This Weekend

Tennessee Football graduates with coach Jeremy Pruitt / Credit: UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Led by the Southeastern Conference’s male scholar-athlete of the year and six Vols expected to suit up this fall, 14 Tennessee football players will receive their diplomas over the next three days.

In total, 56 Tennessee student-athletes are expected to walk across the stage beginning on Thursday and ending on Saturday.

Parker Henry highlights the Tennessee football contingent as he was named the male recipient of the 2017-18 SEC H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete of the Year award. A former equipment manager who walked on to the football team and became the starting holder for two seasons, Henry majored in finance and political science and will receive a $20,000 post-graduate scholarship from the SEC.

Joining Henry will be six Vols expected to don the Orange and White this fall with degrees in hand: senior wide receiver Malik Elion (Kinesiology), redshirt senior defensive back D.J. Henderson (Communication Studies), redshirt senior defensive back Todd Kelly, Jr. (Biological Studies), redshirt junior linebacker Darrin Kirkland, Jr. (Recreation and Sport Management), redshirt junior long snapper Riley Lovingood (Recreation and Sport Management) and senior defensive lineman Kyle Phillips (Recreation and Sport Management).

“I’m excited for these young men who are graduating this May,” Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “That’s why they come here. They are student-athletes. Hopefully, these guys will be really good leaders for us this fall. It shows a lot of maturity that they were able to graduate in three years in some cases. I’m excited for them and their families, and I can’t wait to work with them this fall.”

Redshirt senior linebacker Dillon Bates will give the Vols seven graduates on the roster this fall after he earned his degree in Recreation and Sport Management in December.

A pair of former Tennessee football stars will also walk on stage this weekend. Brian Randolph (DB, 2011—2015) will receive his master’s degree in Management and Human Resources, while Marquez North (WR, 2013-15) utilized the Thornton Center’s Renewing Academic Commitment (RAC) Program to obtain his  bachelor’s degree in Political Science.

Placekicker Aaron Medley (Recreation and Sport Management), defensive back Justin Martin (Communication Studies) and offensive lineman Coleman Thomas (Communication Studies) will also receive their diplomas after wrapping up their Big Orange careers last fall.

Several of the Tennessee graduates expressed gratitude to the staff of the Thornton Center, which offers academic counseling services, career development programs and tutor programs among many features.

“I’m proud to represent my family and my school, and be able to walk across the stage,” Kirkland, Jr. said. “The Thornton Center played a big hand in my development. From coming in early in January 2015 (as an early enrollee) to this spring. I really appreciate everything they did for me. I have two years left and I will go to graduate school. I’m an SEC graduate. It’s a big accomplishment.”

Tennessee Football Spring Graduates (major in parenthesis): 
SP Parker Henry (Finance and Political Science)
LB Darrin Kirkland, Jr. (Recreation and Sport Management)
LS Riley Lovingood (Recreation and Sport Management)
PK Aaron Medley (Recreation and Sport Management)
DL Kyle Phillips (Recreation and Sport Management)
DB Todd Kelly, Jr (Biological Sciences)
DB DJ Henderson (Communication Studies)
DB Justin Martin (Communication Studies)
OL Coleman Thomas (Communication Studies)
WR Malik Elion (Kinesiology)

Former Vols Receiving Their Diploma This Spring:
DB Brian Randolph (Master’s Degree in Management and Human Resources)
WR Marquez North (Political Science)
DL Andrew Butcher (Communication Studies)
QB Quinten Dormady (Recreation and Sport Management)

Quote from Tennessee Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt on Current Players Earning Degrees:
“I’m excited for these young men who are graduating this May. That’s why they come here. They are student-athletes. Hopefully, these guys will be really good leaders for us this fall. It shows a lot of maturity that they were able to graduate in three years in some cases. I’m excited for them and their families, and I can’t wait to work with them this fall.”

Quotes from Returning Student-Athletes on Graduation:
Redshirt junior linebacker Darrin Kirkland, Jr.  

“It’s a huge accomplishment and something I don’t take lightly. I’m proud to represent my family and my school, and be able to walk across the stage. The Thornton Center played a big hand in my development. From coming in early in January 2015 (as an early enrollee) to this spring. I really appreciate everything they did for me. I have two years left and I go to graduate school. I’m an SEC graduate. It’s a big accomplishment.”

Redshirt senior defensive back Todd Kelly, Jr.  
“I’m excited to graduate and be called a Tennessee graduate and a Vol For Life. I’m so thankful for what the Thornton Center has done for me – from mentors to tutors to study hall. Everything they’ve done to help me get this far has been awesome. I can’t thank them enough.”

Senior defensive lineman Kyle Phillips 
“This has been a great journey. It has always been my dream to get my college degree. I’m so happy I got the chance to do it here. Tennessee has really helped me blossom into the young man I’ve become today. Graduating in three years is tough, but it’s well worth it. Especially going into next year being able to take some graduate courses. I’m very excited about it. It takes hard work and dedication.”

Redshirt junior long snapper Riley Lovingood
“One of the best parts about being here at Tennessee has been participating in community service off the field, and getting to know people in the Knoxville community and really serving. Building relationships has probably been my favorite part about being here. Tennessee is my home state. Tennessee is always where I wanted to be. It means a lot to be able to have that degree and say I am a graduate from this university.”

 

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