When Keith Davis left Italy, Texas to start school and play football for Sam Houston he made a promise to his mom he would play in the NFL. She asked for one more promise – to get his degree.

 

In 2002, Davis suited up for the Dallas Cowboys, fulfilling half of his promise. On Friday afternoon at Johnson Coliseum, 21 years after leaving Italy, Davis walked across the stage and received his degree.

 

“Sitting on the porch that summer before going to Sam Houston State, I told my mom I was going to make it,” Davis said. “I told her I was going to make it to the NFL and take care of her.”

 

That part came true for Davis. After going undrafted in the 2002 NFL draft, Davis signed with the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent. He fought through getting cut four times that first year, to eventually earn a spot as a starting safety and was voted team captain his final four seasons in Dallas. 

 

But that was only part of the promise to his mother. 

 

“She said, Keith, son, that’s beautiful and I want you to go to the NFL,” Davis said of that day sitting out on the porch. “But I want you to graduate more than anything, she said. I want you to get your degree and that will make me happier than anything.”

 

So when Davis walked across the stage and was greeted by university president Dana Hoyt, confirming his completion of his Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology, it was understandable the grin was a bit bigger than most.

 

“For me to be here today, knowing that I fulfilled that promise, means so much,” Davis said.

 

At Sam Houston, Davis was three-year starter, two-time All-Southland selection, conference defensive player of the year and a I-AA All-American. Davis went on to a seven-year career with the Dallas Cowboys. Four of those seasons he spent as a captain play special teams and safety.

 

After his football career was done, Davis has seen his oldest son get a football scholarship at Texas Tech and will get his degree next week.

 

“That was a big motivation for me,” Davis said about getting his degree before his son Shawn. “I have talked to my kids about the importance of finishing what you start. I had tried a few times before to finish my degree, and didn’t follow through. So getting it before him was a big motivation for me as well.” 

 

Davis has stayed active supporting the Bearkats, attending games regularly, including getting out on the road in North Dakota last season. But he said being a graduate now adds a little something extra to calling himself a Bearkat.

 

“I’ve always been a Bearkat, but now being alumni it adds a little more meaning,” he said. “Before this, yeah, I was a Bearkat, but I just played football here. Now that I do have my degree it feels even better and I’m proud to say I’m a Sam Houston State alum.”