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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
BYU running back Squally Canada changes shoes while working out for NFL scouts during Pro Day in Provo on Friday, March 29, 2019.

PROVO — Growing up, Squally Canada never entertained thoughts about obtaining a college degree. It wasn't on his list of life objectives.

“It definitely wasn’t. My goal has always been to play in the NFL. I didn’t watch college football growing up. In my head, about middle school, I thought I’d play high school football and go straight to the League,” he said, laughing. “In high school, people were like, ‘You’ve got to go to college first.’ I was like, ‘Whaaaaat?’”

Last week, the former BYU running back received a degree in family science — becoming the first member in his family to graduate from college.

“It means a lot. That means more than football. That’s something that nobody can take away from me. It’s something I worked hard for and I earned every bit of that,” said Canada, who turns 23 on May 7. “That’s part of what can happen when you make a plan and you stick to it. Now that sets the bar for my (future) children that it’s no longer OK to just go to college. It sets the bar for the future of the Canada family.”

" I came out of BYU more of a man. I’m not going to say my life was hard, but I came out knowing I can make it through difficult times. There are people out there hungry and starving that have bigger problems than a game. "
Squally Canada

While Canada is hoping to pursue an NFL career, earning a degree will open doors of opportunities. He’s planning to seek a master’s degree in the future.

"I want to basically be involved in marriage counseling, helping people through problems. It’s definitely something I want to pursue. Life is all about service. That’s what really keeps me going,” he said. “To know that I got a degree because people were kind enough to offer me a prestigious school and change my life, it put me in a better situation and I made it through college debt-free. That’s truly a blessing.”

Canada began his college career at Washington State before transferring to BYU. When asked about his experience in Provo, he said, “It was a movie, that’s all I can say.”

His story is, in part, about resilience.

Canada’s Cougar career began with him fumbling on his first career carry in the Las Vegas Bowl against arch-rival Utah. He took advantage of the chance to learn new running back skills from teammate Jamaal Williams, who ended up becoming BYU’s all-time leading rusher and now plays for the Green Bay Packers.

Meanwhile, Canada’s cousin was killed two years ago in California, which was a deeply painful experience because of their close relationship.

Early on, Canada didn’t receive the playing time at BYU that he was expecting.

“Mentally, I didn’t want to play football anymore. I was done. I was lost. I wanted to transfer," he recalled. "I wanted to get my degree and become a grad transfer. I was all over the place.”

But Canada persevered and along the way, he had to deal with multiple coaching changes and injuries at BYU.

“That shaped me into the person I am today,” Canada said.

One of his BYU highlights was rushing for 118 yards and scoring two touchdowns in the Cougars’ upset of then-No. 6 Wisconsin last September.

During his time at BYU, Canada also fostered his budding music career, writing and releasing several rap songs on Soundcloud.

“I got to know Squally really well while he was here at BYU," said BYU assistant coach Ed Lamb. "I can relate because I’m the first one in my family to get a college degree, too. Squally was very popular with his teammates and is very charismatic. In fact, I’m trying to talk him into becoming a coach someday.”

This weekend, Canada, who is training and working out in California, is hoping to land a spot with an NFL team.

“Right now, I’m playing football. When football is over, I’ll put all of my energy into music and getting my master’s degree," he said. "The same hard work I put into football, I’ll dedicate to anything else that I do. Right now, it’s about being the best running back I can be.”

Yes, Canada is leaving BYU with a degree. But he’s leaving with much more.

“I came out of BYU more of a man. I’m not going to say my life was hard, but I came out knowing I can make it through difficult times. There are people out there hungry and starving that have bigger problems than a game. I’m more humble, and I pushed my body to limits that I never pushed them before. All that is because I went to BYU. I appreciate that program giving me the opportunity.”

BYU student-athlete graduates 2019

Baseball

  • Riley Gates
  • Keaton Kringlen

Basketball — Men

  • McKay Cannon
  • Jahshire Hardnett
  • Luke Worthington

Basketball — Women

  • Caitlyn Alldredge
  • MaCayla Longson
  • Jasmine Moody

Gymnastics

  • Jill Linkletter
  • Natasha Marsh

Soccer

  • Madie Gates

Softball

  • Caitlyn Alldredge
  • Briielle Breland
  • Madison Merrell

Swim and dive — Men

  • Matt Denkers
  • Preston Jenkins
  • Ryan Krause
  • Cameron Lindsay
  • Nathan Rogers
  • Payton Sorenson

Swim and dive — Women

  • Natalie Bennion
  • Vanessa Moffatt
  • Emily To'o
  • Ellie Brinton

Football

  • Rhett Almond
  • Isaiah Armstrong
  • Riley Burt
  • Squally Canada
  • Akile Davis
  • Trey Dye
  • Brayden El-Bakri
  • Matt Foley
  • Alani Fua
  • Trevion Greene
  • Matt Hadley
  • Mitch Harris
  • Beau Hoge
  • Tristen Hoge
  • Austin Hoyt
  • Jacob Jimenez
  • Corbin Kaufusi
  • Uona Kaveinga
  • Ului Lapuaho
  • Hiva Lee
  • Tanner Mangum
  • Andrew Mikkelsen
  • Butch Pau'u
  • Riggs Powell
  • Sawyer Powell
  • Adam Pulsipher (MPA)
  • Nate Sampson
  • Rhett Sandlin
  • Micah Simon
  • Michael Shelton

Tennis — Men

  • Sean Hill
  • John Pearce

Tennis — Women

  • Mayci Jones
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Track and field — Men

  • Danny Carney
  • Dennis Christensen
  • Marcus Dickson
  • Kraymer Eppich
  • Dallin Farnsworth
  • Jacob Foutz
  • Trevor Fuhriman
  • Jefferson Jarvis
  • Rory Linkletter
  • Connor McMillan
  • Scott Mecham
  • Connor Ross
  • Clayton Young

Track and field — Women

  • Kristi Briggs
  • Kaitlyn Burrup
  • Madeline Cannon
  • Elyse Cuthbertson
  • Madelyn Dickson
  • Christina Hedgepeth
  • Shyandrea Jackson
  • Brenna Porter

Volleyball - Men

  • Taylor Richards

Volleyball - Women

  • Lyndie Eppich
  • Madeline Graham
  • Roni Jones-Perry
  • Sydnie Martindale
  • Danelle Stetler