The audience cheered when College Dean Joseph Aoun explained to the crowd of students and relatives what McCutcheon had done. “He left the university, and he came back. We did not give him any special breaks. We asked him to work even harder. And we are very, very proud of him,” Aoun said. McCutcheon got the idea when he ran into his old academic adviser, Janice Henry, while on a trip to Las Vegas. She urged him to finish his degree, remembering a promise she had made to his mother when McCutcheon started college. “She said, `I want Daylon to get his degree from USC, Mrs. Henry.’ She said it in a stern voice. I said, `Yes ma’am, I heard you,” Henry said. But McCutcheon found it hard to focus on both football and academics. When he left school, he promised his mother he would eventually get his degree. Over the years, the possibility faded. But his mom didn’t forget. “She was on me. `You promised me! You need to get your schooling done!”‘ McCutcheon said. When McCutcheon found out graduation day was the same weekend as Mother’s Day, he knew a diploma would be the perfect gift. Going back to school after a hiatus wasn’t easy, he said. “It was hard for me to get focused and get on track,” he said. For a final project for one class, he studied relationships between men and women by interviewing each of his teammates. “I promised my mom I would get this done. Today, it’s just about fulfilling promises.” [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2306160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Deborah Sterling was so nervous Thursday night she had trouble sleeping. Her son, 29-year-old Cleveland Browns cornerback Daylon McCutcheon, a former Bishop Amat High School and USC standout, had called to tell her he was taking her to a special Mother’s Day brunch the next morning. “I never know what my son is going to do,” said Sterling, a Diamond Bar resident. There was the time he surprised her with a new Mercedes-Benz with a bow on top after a family dinner. Another time, he mailed her a package with a puzzle inside. Solving it, she found a message saying McCutcheon and his wife were having a baby boy. But even those surprises were topped Friday morning when a limousine came to pick up Sterling for brunch, and instead took a turn toward the USC campus. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsWhen McCutcheon was drafted in 1999, he was 30 credits short of graduating from USC. It was a sore point with Sterling, a teacher at Giano Intermediate School in West Covina. “\ was just something that was always instilled in me, because I was the first one in my family to get a degree,” she said. But when the limousine turned the corner, there was her son standing on campus in a cap and gown, she said. For the past two years, he had been secretly chipping away at his degree, taking classes during the off-season and e-mailing term papers to his professors while in Cleveland. As family members snapped photos, McCutcheon walked across a stage Friday to receive his diploma in sociology, eight years after he left the college.