POTSDAM, N.Y. (WWNY) - A lot of times when a student athlete leaves college early for a pro career, the thought of getting a college degree leaves with them.
But for the Clarkson University Golden Knights men’s hockey team, that’s not the case.
An example of that, the story of two former stars from the 2018-19 team that have juggled pro careers and school and can now call themselves Clarkson graduates.
Nico Sturm and Jake Kielly were key members of the 2018-19 Clarkson men’s hockey team that went 26-11-2, won the ECAC tournament, and lost to Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament.
After that loss to Notre Dame, both juniors decided to forego their senior seasons and turn pro, a lifelong goal.
But both players also never lost sight of another goal: getting their degrees from Clarkson, which they did recently.
“Right from the time I knew what a D-1 scholarship was, I wanted to go to school, play hockey, but also get my degree so I can set myself up for my life outside of hockey,” Kielly said.
“Just nice, good feeling.” Sturm said. “It’s probably a little different experience getting the diploma than most students. I just got it in the mail in a white envelope -- no commencement or anything like that, so that was probably different.”
Both players had to juggle pro careers in hockey while working toward their degrees at Clarkson and say while it was a challenge, getting an education and diploma was the main reason they came to Clarkson.
“I not only felt obligated to finish that degree, obligated to myself, but also to my parents and, you know, Clarkson and all the people that have helped me along the way,” Sturm said.
“You know, now going forward I can kind of call myself an official Clarkson alumni and that’s something I’m super proud of ‘cause it’s a phenomenal culture there, it’s a phenomenal school and it kind of felt like that part of me was missing a little bit, not having the degree,” Kielly said, “and being able to wrap that up this summer was huge.”
The example that both players have set off the ice is something that the Golden Knights program and head coach Casey Jones emphasize, standards the Golden Knights have set for their student athletes.
“We’re really proud of the fact that we’ve had four years in a row that we’re a perfect APR and we’re one of the few teams that’s also qualified on those years in the tournament, which I think it shows we’re doing it on the ice and doing it off the ice as well,” Jones said. “So we’re really proud of that and it just goes to show you what those two guys -- taking care of business and getting their degrees. It just kind of shows you that’s kind of the culture they helped us kind of set in place.”
It’s a standard of excellence expected from Golden Knight athletes and a culture that still prevails in the Golden Knights program.