DeKeyser never left school; 6 years later, he gets his degree
Danny DeKeyser can now hang his college degree from Western Michigan on his office wall.
Danny DeKeyser left Western Michigan University for the NHL and the Red Wings when he was a junior in 2013, but he did not stop taking classes and studying.
The proof of that comes Saturday morning when the former All-American Broncos defenseman, who turned 29 in late March, was scheduled to graduate during a commencement ceremony at the school’s Miller Auditorium in Kalamazoo.
"I went to school for three full years pretty much, and I didn't want to waste those three years and all those credits and everything," DeKeyser said in a video interview provided by WMU. "I was close to finishing up, so I thought I might as well do it.
"My wife (Melissa), she graduated from Western, too, and in our office, she has her diploma there on the wall. I always walk by and notice it, and I told her, 'One day I'm going to put mine right up there next to yours.' "
Western Michigan hockey coach Andy Murray encourages all of his players to get their degrees.
"We're proud and excited for him, and thank him for setting the standard for our players," Murray told www.mlive.com. "He and a number of our other pros have done things the right way athletically and academically, and that's how we're able to show all these kids we're recruiting what they can become.
"He comes from a tremendously supportive family, and I don't think there's a chance in the world his mother would've let him not finish his degree. He could've left here after two years, but he stayed an extra year to develop as a person and get more credits out of the way."
DeKeyser completed his degree through WMU's Extended University Programs, which integrates prior coursework from almost any major into a bachelor's degree in university studies.
"I think it was one of those things where I had been in the league for a few years,” he said, “and had established myself a little bit as an NHLer, and I didn't have any kids at the time or anything like that, and all I was doing was focusing on training for hockey and skating in the summers and stuff. And so I thought it would be a good time to start it back up.
"On the road when we travel, we have a little bit of down time in the hotel or on the plane rides and stuff like that, so it actually gave me something to do and kept me busy while I was away from home."
Obviously, it was not always easy.
"There were a few times where it was tough, and it was getting in late, 3 a.m. on the road or something like that, and then the next day we'd have a practice, and then I'd have to do some homework," he said. "It was definitely different than what I was used to when I started in the NHL.
"I didn't have anything else going on, I could just focus on hockey. But I had to keep tabs on my schooling, so it was definitely different, but overall I liked it. I enjoyed learning and stuff like that."
When DeKeyser and his wife had their first child in February 2018, it gave him even more motivation to earn his degree.
"Having a daughter now, I want her to get the most schooling that she can, so I'll always push her to hopefully get a college degree one day, and I can say, 'See, I already had a job, but I went and got it anyway,' or something like that," he said. "I think it's just something that down the road maybe would be nice to have as a role model type of thing.
"I tell any college guys that I know of now that are kind of leaning towards maybe leaving after three years or something like that to make sure they push themselves to try to finish up."
Murray continually reminded DeKeyser of how important it was to ultimately attain his degree during his three years at WMU.
"Ultimately, that's why their parents send them to us because we hold them to high academic standards," Murray said. "There's a direct correlation in their ability to achieve in the classroom and in hockey, and once the game of hockey is done, they can move into something else right away and prosper.
“When you’re here, you’re a college athlete, so you need to go to class and get good grades, and I think that discipline translates to your discipline in hockey.”