Daniels and Washington Graduate; McCluster, Lewis and Copper Near Degree Completion

Posted Sep 13, 2011

In March, ran a story highlighting the various Chiefs returning to school over the offseason. This is a follow-up to that story.

In between football workouts, Dexter McCluster strapped on a backpack and tipped his hat low as he walked across the Ole Miss campus. His goal was to blend in just like any other college student attending spring classes in Oxford, Mississippi.

Problem is, McCluster isn’t like every other student attending summer classes in the football-hungry college town. His long dreadlocks, small frame and outgoing personality make for futile attempts to stay anonymous.

“I had to change up which car I drove to school, or get dropped off on campus sometimes, so I could make it to class on time,” McCluster said. “I’ve got a lot of support back in Mississippi, which is really special to me.”

McCluster is about as polite as it gets. He constantly stops to talk with fans, sign autographs and takes pictures. He easily became a fan favorite during his first training camp in Kansas City and has remained one since.

In Oxford, it’s no different. Not even after a year removed from school.

“It’s cool and shows that you’re doing something right and are a role model to a lot of people, but it’s also sometimes a distraction to the work and study balance you try to have,” McCluster said.

That balance is a serious thing to McCluster, who is now just one class short of completing a degree in Journalism after taking Journalism 378 and English 437 this spring. He plans on heading back to Oxford again next offseason to finish what he started.

Graduating was a promise he made to both his mother and daughter.

“I’m going back next summer to finish my final class,” McCluster said. “I’m determined to get that degree. I didn’t go to school four years not to get it.”

College and pro teammate Kendrick Lewis possesses the same mindset. He and McCluster served as captains for the Ole Miss football team in 2009.

Lewis is in the final stages of completing the final credit hours needed for a degree in Criminal Justice.

“It was understood in my family that I was going to come back and complete the degree,” Lewis said.

Two other defensive backs joined Lewis in returning to school as well.

Travis Daniels completed a degree in General Studies at LSU, with minors in African History, Sociology and Social Work. Daniels left LSU in 2005 after being selected in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins.

Donald Washington, who left Ohio State following his junior season, also has his diploma in hand after completing an internship for the final credits toward a Journalism Degree.

“I was shadowing Shelly Poe, who is in charge of media relations for the football team,” Washington said of the internship. “It was during spring football, so a lot was going on around the football team.

“I would go to the interview sessions and watch how the interviewer conducted and prepared for the interview. Being the one always being interviewed, seeing how it all happens and is prepared for, from a different perspective, was really interesting.”

Washington also helped coordinate team picture days for the football and women’s soccer programs.  

“Shelly also gave me a list of projects to do dealing with statistics research for the football team,” Washington said.  “I’m finished with everything, but I’m planning on going back to do some more work in the offseason just to be around that environment and learn more. Not necessarily for credit, but I just want to stay around it as much as I can so I’m prepared for whenever football is over.”

WR Terrance Copper has been in the NFL for eight seasons, but returned to the classroom this summer as well. He took an online algebra class through East Carolina University.

“It was good to get back into the swing of it,” Copper said. “I hadn’t taken math in a long time.

“I got a chance to take that course online, but I honestly would rather return to the campus. I’m more of a hands-on, visual learner. But taking online classes is definitely a good option if you’re a busy person. You can just easily get on the computer and do it, but I’d honestly like to go in person.”

The coursework was Copper’s first since leaving school to join the NFL as an undrafted rookie in 2004. Copper is 15 credits short of graduation and plans to go back to school again next summer.

“The goal is definitely to graduate,” Copper said. That’s why I started back school; to get back into the mix of it. I wanted to start school back up so I could get back into the flow of it.”

The Chiefs had the highest number of players returning to the classroom of any NFL team heading into the 2011 season. That number includes several players who are no longer with the team.

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