Graduating … With Honor

Spring Commencement at the University of Colorado took place on Saturday. Under overcast skies, CU conferred a total of 5,983 degrees, including 4,620 bachelor’s degrees, 886 master’s degrees, 179 law degrees and 298 doctoral degrees.

The commencement speaker was Facebook marketing executive – and CU graduate – Kelly Graziadei, who told University of Colorado students that there’s no way to predict which choices will lead to their future happiness.

“Making the choices that are right for you — it’s thrilling and terrifying all at once,” she told CU’s graduating class of 2016. “There’s no universal blueprint I can give you.”

Amongst those graduating Saturday were 49 CU student-athletes. The roll call of student-athlete graduates included 14 from football, eight from cross country/track & field, seven from soccer, six from skiing, four from men’s basketball and women’s golf, two from volleyball and one each from lacrosse, tennis, men’s golf and women’s basketball.

It’s been a good year for CU athletics … at least academic speaking.

Last month, the University of Colorado Academic Progress Rate (APR) report, based on information for the four year period between 2011-12 and 2014-15, was released by the NCAA. CU once again reported positive news for all 17 of its intercollegiate athletic programs in that time frame. For the fifth consecutive year, the APR result, averaged across the sport programs, is the highest in school history since the NCAA’s Academic Performance Program was introduced in 2003

In the two sports most scrutinized, football and men’s basketball continued to exceed national averages.  Football posted a record 973 score (up from 966 last year and well above the 959 nationally); in Mike MacIntyre’s six years as a head coach, his teams at Colorado and San Jose State have exceeded the national average for football five of those six years (including all three at CU).  Men’s basketball jumped from 959 to 980, and in five of Tad Boyle’s six seasons at the helm of the program, CU’s number has been above the national mark (964 this year);

It’s also been a good year for individual CU student-athletes. If you haven’t already, take a few minutes to read the following articles posted at

— “Football, Med School: CU’s McCartney Earns Degree, Eyes Both” … CU linebacker Derek McCartney graduating with two years of eligibility remaining (as did fellow linebacker Addison Gillam);

— “For CU’s Wise, Athletics And Academics The Perfect Match” … CU skier Clare Wise graduated with a 3.88 grade point average and a degree in chemical and biological engineering … and two national championships; and

— “CU’s Winter Combines Athletics, Academics To Forge Career” … CU cross-country runner Connor Winter was not only an athletic standout (two-time first team All-American, a Pac-12 individual champion and member of two national championship teams), he graduated Saturday with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Great stories, but they are just a handful of the 49 stories behind the CU student-athlete Class of 2016.

Most Buff fans are familiar with some of the names of the football players who earned their degrees this spring … Addison Gillam, Diego Gonzalez, Jeromy Irwin, Derrick McCartney and Christian Powell … as these players have been fixtures in the Buff starting lineup for the past several seasons.

So I would like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to some of the other football players who graduated, whose names might not be as familiar:

Ed Caldwell … A 6’5″, 300-pound offensive lineman from Highlands Ranch, Colorado. An early enrollee and a walk-on, Caldwell didn’t see his first collegiate action until last fall.  He finished up the games against Massachusetts (three snaps) and Nicholls State (five plays).  For his eight plays on the season, he had a 75.0 percent grade overall and a 37.5 plus play percentage.  He had two years of eligibility remaining, but decided to forego the second and play as a senior in 2015. Caldwell graduated (in 3 1/2 years) with a degree in chemical and biological engineering.

John Finch … A 5’11, 210-pound fullback/long snapper from Park City, Utah. Finch saw action in one game last fall (Nicholls State) on offense, the first game he was healthy to suit up after missing the first three with an injury.  He had two years of eligibility remaining, but decided to forego the second and play as a senior. Finch graduated with a double major in economics and political science.

Colin Johnson … A 6’0, 185-pound wide receiver from Saratoga, California. He saw action in all 13 games on special teams, and in a few late on offense but did not have any offensive statistics.  He was the first-team holder for all placement kicks, handling all 65 to perfection (36 point after touchdown, 29 field goal).  He also added a tackle on special teams.  He had two years of eligibility remaining, but decided to forego the second and play as a senior. Johnson graduated with a degree in finance.

Marques Mosley … A 6’0″, 180-pound defensive back from Upland, California.  Moseley did not see any action in 2015, dressing for just two games.  He was held out of spring practices as he completed rehabilitation following knee surgery in November, 2014. As a freshman in 2012, Mosley earned honorable mention All-Pac 12 honors at defensive back from the league coaches, and was a second-team All-Pac 12 choice at kickoff returner by  He played in all 12 games, including starts in seven, three at nickel back and the final four games of the season at strong safety. Mosley finished his career 19th in all-time kickoff return yards at Colorado (604). He graduated with a degree in communication.

Wyatt Tucker-Smith … A 6’3″, 200-pound long-snapper from Gulfport, Mississippi. Tucker-Smith was CU’s top snapper for both long (punting) and short (placekicking) situations for the past two seasons.  Tucker-Smith handled every snap on special teams, all to perfection: 133 total, 68 punt snaps and 65 placement hikes.  He was invited to and played in the inaugural Tropic Bowl in Miami for FBS seniors.  For his career, he made 262 snaps without error (134 punt, 128 placement). Tucker-Smith graduated with a degree in journalism.

John Tuso … A 6’3″, 270-pound defensive lineman from Englewood, Colorado. Tuso opted to work as a student assistant coach in 2015 and forego his senior year of eligibility, mainly due to the massive knee injury he suffered the previous spring. In 2013, Tuso saw action in one game but did dress for all 12; he was in for two snaps against Charleston Southern. Tuso graduated with a degree in Geology.

John Walker … A 5’9″, 180-pound defensive back from Washington D.C.  Walker played in five games last fall, posting five tackles in 81 plays of action. As a sophomore in 2014, Walker appeared in all 12 games, including seven starts, playing 438 snaps from scrimmage, the most by any part-time starter on defense.  He was mainly in at the nickel position (where he made all seven of his starts) in recording 28 tackles (19 solo, one for a loss); he also had two tackles for zero gains, three third down stops, a forced fumble, one quarterback pressure, a touchdown save and five passes broken up.  Walker could have played this fall as a senior, but decided to forego his final season. Walker graduated with a degree in Sociology.

De’Jon Wilson … A 6’3″, 250-pound defensive lineman from Washington D.C. Wilson did not play in 2015, but saw action in a total of 22 games in his career. In 2014, he saw action in 11 games (no starts; all but in the season opener against Colorado State), as he was in for 139 snaps total from scrimmage.  He recorded seven tackles (five solo), with two quarterback hurries, a third down stop and a pass broken up. In 2013, Wilson saw action in 11 games (no starts; he did not play against Central Arkansas), and was in for 176 snaps from scrimmage.  He posted 12 tackles (eight solo, two for losses including a half-quarterback sack and two tackles for zero), along with a fumble recovery, a quarterback pressure, a caused interception and a pass broken up. Wilson graduated with a degree in communication.

Yuri Wright … A 6’1″, 185-pound defensive back from Spring Valley, New York. Wright was a bright star for the Buffs early in his career, but his playing time diminished each season. As a freshman in 2012, Wright played in eight games, starting six (three at right corner and three on the left side), missing four others due to injuries (concussion, sprained ankle).  He earned honorable mention All-Pac 12 honors from the league coaches.  He was in for 310 snaps from scrimmage, the 12th most by a true frosh at CU dating back to at least 1984, the sixth most by a defensive back. After redshirting in 2013, Wright saw action on special teams in four games in 2014, recording one knockdown block. Last season, Wright did not play, dressing only for the Massachusetts game. Wright graduated with a degree in communication.

Every one of the 5.983 graduates from the University of Colorado this spring has a story. Some of the stories are of challenges overcome, some are of perseverance … and some are of students who spent more time partying than studying (you know who you are!).

There were 49 student-athletes who graduated as part of the spring Class of 2016. Some will go on to play professionally in their sports, while most will go on to other pursuits.

All deserve our thanks for representing the black-and-gold with class and dignity.

Go Buffs!



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