Diamond in the rough

Spring 2022 graduate Danlee Duncan embraces cheering for MSU Texas, helping others find happiness

Danlee Duncan grew up in Quanah, Texas, dreaming of playing baseball in college. Midwestern State University doesn’t have a baseball team.

So when Plan A didn’t unfold the way Duncan hoped, he found MSU Texas could be his home base where he could celebrate many winning college hits (no batting helmet required).

 MSU Texas caught his eye with an academic scholarship. Timing was everything as the offer came in the day after he had injured his hamstring in a high school baseball game.

The sense of family and camaraderie that many found in sports is something Duncan could sense at MSU Texas. And Duncan also found a team, competing with MSU Cheer, while earning his Bachelor of Science degree with a major in kinesiology. He competed in the UCA College National Championship three times, earning second place once and twice taking third. He became a team captain in his junior and senior years.

“Coming to MSU, I had zero experience in regards to cheer; however, cheer became something I love, something I enjoyed, and something I could push myself physically in,” Duncan said. “Cheer gave me that family away from home. It gave me a group of friends I could always count on, call if I needed help or a laugh in times of sorrow, and people I could just be myself around. MSU Cheer provided me with opportunities I wouldn't have obtained anywhere else, it provided me with a sense of belonging, and it provided me with an ever-growing family I will always have in my life.”

Duncan said that the MSU Cheer experience helped him become a better leader and role model, and gave him many friendships he cherishes.  His awards are many, including Rookie of the Year in 2019, Veteran Athlete of the Year in 2020 and 2021, and winner of the Mustang Pride Award in 2022.

Walking across the graduation stage is another accomplishment for Duncan, but he believes his eyes are on the future, where he hopes to be a teacher and coach who can make this a better world for others.

“Growing up, my brother and I didn't have the perfect lives. Our amazing, God-loving, parents gave us everything they could and taught us how to be caring, loving, respectful, and honest,” Duncan said. “Success shouldn't be measured by money, land, expensive items, or trophies. Success should be measured by true happiness and how you will use that to impact the world.”

Duncan’s pursuit of happiness won’t peak as he crosses the stage, but the accomplishment has made him realize he’s “one step closer to impacting more lives and influencing people to strive for the happiness their heart desires.”

 Danlee Duncan at Spirit of Mustangs display

Danlee Duncan holds up a MSU Cheer teammate
MSU Texas graduate Danlee Duncan holds up a MSU Cheer teammate. Duncan competed in the UCA College National Championships three times and won many honors.

 

Danlee was visiting his brother, Daycee Duncan when he “instantly fell in love” with MSU Texas. He toured the campus, played volleyball at church, and he felt this was where “God was pointing him to go.”

The classes Duncan cherished at MSU Texas included MSU Leadership, Adapted Physical Education, and Classroom Management. Those helped him develop as a leader and future educator both mentally and professionally.

“I could write a 100-page essay explaining the professors who made an impact on my life; however, I will narrow it down to just a few,” Duncan said. He named Associate Professor Stacia Miller, retired Associate Professor Phillip Blacklock, Assistant Professor Sandra Shawver, and Assistant Professor Carrie Taylor as “imperative” to his development as a leader and future educator. “Dr. Blacklock and Dr. Shawver taught me to always be myself. They had two of the most fun classrooms, provided a well-rounded education, and helped each student explore their own ideas while learning the necessary material. Dr. Taylor taught me that education is more than lesson plans and activities. Dr. Taylor always put importance on the impact we were making in the lives of the students. He also practiced it in the classroom. Dr. Taylor was motivated to help us reach our true potential. Dr. Miller was by my side through pretty much my entire college career, and I would not have been exposed to as many amazing opportunities if it wasn't for her. Dr. Miller taught me what it truly means to be an educator, what it truly means to impact the lives of students, and that I can achieve anything I set my mind to.”

His MSU family and his own family will come together at the Spring 2022 MSU Texas Commencement ceremony.

“This is an amazing accomplishment in both my heart and the hearts of everyone in my family; however, it is really a testament to what people can do,” Duncan said. “It doesn't matter where you came from, where you want to go, what you are doing now, or what you did in the past; you can do anything you set your mind to.”

Some of his best MSU memories include playing “All Summer Long” on the piano at Pierce Hall, serving as an orientation leader, entertaining his group by performing flips, and later teaching a first-year seminar course.

Duncan’s immediate plans are to pursue his Master’s of Education at MSU Texas, a place that didn’t need a baseball diamond to make him feel valuable.