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A Degree in One Hand, A Football in the Other

Delshawn McClellon and Blake Kemp
Delshawn McClellon and Blake Kemp

It's not often that a student-athlete has a chance to graduate college, and still have a year of eligibility left. For quarterback Blake Kemp and wide receiver Delshawn McClellon, that's the case. Although both players traveled different paths to get to where they are now, the end result is the same…Northern Arizona.

For Kemp, a product of Hamilton High School in Chandler, it was an opportunity to return to his home state. After completing his high school career, Kemp chose to attend Mesa Community College, before transferring to East Carolina University. He earned a communications degree from ECU.

"It's really nice to be closer to home," said Kemp. "At our game at Arizona State, I had more family and friends at that game, then any of my games at East Carolina."

While Kemp is an Arizona native, McClellon is not. He hails from Long Beach, Calif. and attended Gahr High School, before committing to the University of Utah. McClellon was one of the fastest, if not the fastest player on the Utah roster for four years; a bonus for the Lumberjacks this season as speed is always welcome. McClellon doesn't have any ties to the state of Arizona, yet he decided to make NAU his home.

Being the oldest player in the wide receivers unit, McClellon definitely sees himself as a mentor.

"I love it here," said McClellon. "We (wide receivers) all get along and want each other to get better. I came here because I knew that I could help NAU and NAU could help me."

Kemp decided to come to NAU even though he knew that the Lumberjacks just had a very successful season with the reigning FCS National Freshman of the Year in Case Cookus. For him it was all about NAU's academic program and being able to still play football.

Kemp is currently pursuing a master's degree in public administration. He's been studying for the fire department exam, and hopes that both of his degrees will help him achieve many goals once football is done.

McClellon wants to use his sociology degree to help grade school kids in the area of counseling or teaching, and that's why he is currently pursuing a master's degree in educational leadership.

"It means a lot to me to have my college degree," McClellon said. "No one in my family has an undergrad degree, so it's bigger than football at the end of the day."

While most people will automatically assume this is a story about "transfers," in actuality, it's about two students who worked hard to earn their college degrees in four years and chose to finish out their playing career. Many times you only get the athletic side of a student's life, but it's always nice to have the student-athlete side instead.

"When you get a little older you realize you need to do things that are going to help you later on in life," Kemp added. "Degrees are important, so whenever you have the opportunity to continue your education while playing the sport you love, you have to take advantage of it."  

Taking advice from McClellon, "I have learned that hard work will beat anything at any time."

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