December 26, 2021 

SEC graduate patches a source of pride for athletes

'Seeing it on my jersey every day is a constant reminder of what I accomplished'

To the casual observer, it may be a small thing.

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But to those closest to it, it’s much, much more.

It’s a source of pride and achievement; a reminder of the hard work, late nights and tears that preceded.

It’s the SEC graduate patch and it’s worn on the jersey of all student-athletes that have graduated, including those that may graduate early with eligibility remaining and graduate transfers from all institutions, SEC or not.

This season, a record 30 players are wearing the SEC graduate patch. To many of them, it’s a priceless treasure.

“For me, personally I really do appreciate the patch because I am a first-generation gradate,” said Mississippi State women’s basketball team forward Raven Farley, who graduated last summer from St. John’s University with a bachelor’s degree in sports management and a minor in business.

“So for me it’s a big deal. It’s not easy what we do. Being acknowledged and seeing it (the patch) on my jersey every day is a constant reminder of how far I came and what I did accomplish,” Farley said. “I graduated college. It’s just a reminder to keep going.”

Kayla Wells, a graduate student guard at Texas A&M, is equally excited about the small symbol on her jersey which represents a huge accomplishment.

“Honestly, when I first got my patch, I was so excited,” Wells said. “That’s just an amazing achievement, especially because I graduated a little bit early and for me to be one of the first to graduate from my family, this is super important to me.”

Wells received her Bachelor of Science in Telecommunications in 2020 and is now playing for the Aggies while pursuing a master’s in performance management.

 “It’s a thing of pride, especially being from A&M, graduating and becoming a part of the Aggie network and being able to use that  network is so important,” she said. “It means a lot to me to wear that patch.”

The number of student-athletes wearing the SEC graduate patch has varied, but this year is the largest in the past five years. Per SEC Stats, in the 2017-18 season, 16 players wore the patch, which rose to 20 in 2018-19. After dropping to 14 in 2019-20, 28 players wore it last season and 30 players so far are wearing it this year.

Per the SEC, the students wearing the graduate patch this year and their schools are: Allie Craig Cruce, Alabama; Jada Rice, Alabama; Amber Ramirez, Arkansas; Kiyae’ White, Auburn; Kiara Smith, Florida; Jenna Staiti, Georgia; Que Morrison, Georgia; Mikayla Coombs, Georgia; Malury Bates, Georgia; Blair Green, Kentucky; Autumn Newby, LSU; Jailin Cherry, LSU; Khayla Pointer, LSU; Faustine Aifuwa, LSU; Lashonda Monk, Ole Miss; Mimi Reid, Ole Miss; Andeija Puckett, Ole Miss;  Caterrion Thompson, Mississippi State; Myah Taylor, Mississippi State; Anastasia Hayes, Mississippi State; Raven Farley, Mississippi State; Haley Troup, Missouri; LeLe Grissett, South Carolina; Destiny Littleton, South Carolina;  Alexus Dye, Tennessee; Keyen Green, Tennessee; Jordan Walker, Tennessee; Kayla Wells, Texas A&M; Destiny Pitts, Texas A&M; Asha Taylor, Vanderbilt.

In addition, three women’s basketball players will join this list and proudly add the SEC grad patch to their uniforms after earning their degrees this month: Megan Abrams, Alabama; LaDazhia Williams, Missouri; Jordan Nixon, Texas A&M.

Misty Brown, SEC’s assistant commissioner for competition and student-athlete engagement, said the student-athletes being able to graduate, earn and wear the patch and still be able to participate in their sport “is such a huge honor for them.”

“It says a lot. It says ‘I have been able to accomplish competing at the highest level the SEC and additionally I’ve been able to accomplish the classwork and all the other things that come with being a college student,’” Brown said. “To me, it signifies they are more than just athletes; they are graduates; they are alums of their institutions which is huge.

“That is why they come to college – to graduate, to go to graduate school. Many of them have goals, just like winning a conference championship – to wear the graduate patch. So I think adding (the graduate patch) as an accomplishment for our student-athletes has been huge.”

The patch is available for student-athletes in all sports where players can choose to turn professional early.

“They say ‘I wear it with pride,’” Brown said of what students share with her. “It’s definitely something they take pride in. It puts a smile on parent’s faces, and it makes the student/athlete proud of the work they’ve done all while competing in the SEC.”

Khayla Pointer, a guard for LSU, graduated last May with her degree in sports administration and a double minor in health sciences and business. Wearing the patch makes her feel special, she said.

“When I walked in the lock room and saw it (on my jersey), I just thought it was pretty cool. I’ve got my degree but I’m still able to play the game of basketball,” Pointer said.

“And I think that’s honestly amazing. Just to be able to have that patch is truly an honor and a blessing to share that experience with other players across the league.”

Written by Dorothy J. Gentry

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