Five Former Tigers Add Names to Project Graduation List
BATON ROUGE – Graduating Champions is the mission of the LSU football program under head coach Brian Kelly.
That mission is not just for current players, but also applies to those who have come before – the ones who helped lay the foundation on which the three-time national championship program is built.
Four more former Tiger football players will accomplish the mission on Friday as they will officially become LSU graduates. The list includes Trindon Holliday, Grant Delpit, JaCoby Stevens and Jay Ward. All four won national championships in football and now they are LSU graduates.
Holiday was part of LSU’s 2007 national championship team, while Delpit, Stevens and Ward were all members of the perfect season in 2019.
“Our mission is not just about our current players,” LSU coach Brian Kelly said. “It’s about former players and reaching out to them to make sure they understand that we are here and ready to help in any way we can. We want to assist them and build that bridge so they can come back and graduate.
“We are very proud of our four former football players for sticking to their commitment of earning their degree and being part of our mission and that’s graduating champions. It gets difficult sometimes, you get distracted, life takes a different turn and priorities then change, but it’s great to see they guys stick with it and earn their LSU degree. It’s a proud moment and I want to congratulate them on this accomplishment.”
The four football players, along with former baseball pitcher Jesse Stallings, all took advantage of LSU’s Project Graduation program, an initiative formally implemented by the Cox Communication Academic Center for Student-Athletes in 2010. Project Graduation is a program put in place to assist former LSU student-athletes return to school and obtain their degree.
Since the inception of the program, nearly 100 former LSU student-athletes have returned to school and earned their college diploma.
“The mission of Project Graduation is to help former student-athletes return to school and graduate,” said Jason Shaw, the Director of Academic Affairs for the Cox Communications Academic Center and the Project Graduation coordinator. “There’s nothing more gratifying than seeing our Project Graduation students make the commitment to return to school and finish what they started.
“It’s a very proud moment for all of us in the Academic Center. Many of these student-athletes have gone on to play professional sports or start a career outside of athletics and to watch the commitment they make and what it means to them to get their LSU degree is special.”
Holliday, who last played for LSU in 2009, spent six years in the NFL before retiring from the league following the 2015 season. He left campus just six hours shy of earning his degree and decided last spring to complete his final two classes in order to graduate.
“I got a call from (quarterback coach) Joe (Sloan) telling me about Project Graduation and how close I was to finishing my degree,” Holliday said. “He put in touch with Jason (Shaw) and Walt (Holliday) in the academic center and I was able to get those final six hours done this summer.
“Getting my degree means everything to me” Holliday said. “My daughter will be there to watch me walk across the stage so that’s going to be very exciting for my family.”
Stevens returned to campus after two years in the NFL. His undergraduate degree has allowed him to join the LSU football coaching staff as a graduate assistant this year.
“LSU has already done so much for me and my family,” Stevens said. “From allowing me to represent the state of Louisiana on the football field and helping me by guiding me into this next chapter as a coach. To finally be able to call myself an LSU graduate means so much.”
Stevens said getting his degree would not have been possible without Project Graduation.
“LSU’s Project Graduation program is amazing. There are so many people who worked with me and helped me achieve this great accomplishment. People like Walt Holliday, Jason Shaw, Beth Rex, and Miriam Segar all were with me for every step of the way.
“This (program) is something that every athlete who hasn’t finished their degree should consider. I will forever be grateful for it. Things like Project Graduation is what makes LSU so special and it’s what sets us apart from others. Project Graduation is the epitome of Graduating Champions.”
Ward, now a member of the Minnesota Vikings, said, “I’ve worked really hard over the past few years so it’s awesome to see all of that hard work payoff. Being able to say I’m an LSU graduate and a national champion means a lot to me.”
With his college diploma, Delpit joins elite company at LSU – graduating, winning a national championship, earning first-team All-America and being named the winner of a national award (he won the Jim Thorpe Award in 2019). Delpit made it back to campus for graduation before returning to Cleveland for the Browns’ preseason game against the Commanders on Friday night.
“The academic center helped me fulfill my goal of academic excellence,” Delpit said. “With the help of counselors, tutors, and other staff I was able to achieve my academic goals and uphold my family’s standard of earning a college degree. I’m proud to be an LSU alum and a role model for the younger generation.”
There are currently several former student-athletes in Project Graduation nearing their degree.
Shaw said having a program like Project Graduation wouldn’t be possible without a partnership in all areas of campus.
“Project Graduation is a collaborative effort between many groups on campus,” Shaw said. “The success of this initiative is because of the willingness of so many different areas that have bought into the program and take pride is seeing our former student-athletes earn their degree. It’s a big part of what makes LSU such a special place.”
Any former LSU student-athlete interested in being part of Project Graduation is encouraged to contact Jason Shaw at Cox Communications Academic Center for Student-Athletes at 225.578.5784 or firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information.