(ThyBlackMan.com) Life throws a lot of unexpected challenges towards your path along the way. During the course of life, academic challenges are part of that experience whether it is in elementary, middle, or high school. For many people after high school graduation, the next academic step is pursuing higher education at a college or university. There are advantages to earning a college degree and going through the experience to earn one but the path is different for all people based on a variety of factors. Some recent sports figures have shown that the timeline towards earning a college degree is different for each individual and it can happen during various stages of life.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts has had an eye-popping 2023. He was one of the finalists for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award, he had a strong performance in his team’s Super Bowl loss to end last season, and he recently signed a history-making contract. One of the highlights of his 2023 has to also be the master’s degree in Human Relations that he earned last month from the University of Oklahoma. Hurts, who is only 24 years old, falls under the category of those “62% of students who started a degree or certificate program and finished their program within six years”, according to the most recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse. It is even more impressive that Hurts got that master’s degree as a student-athlete who was the starting quarterback at a high-profile university like the University of Oklahoma.
According to many basketball historians, Basketball Hall of Famer Ray Allen held the unofficial title as “the greatest shooter in NBA history” before Steph Curry’s incredible run the past decade. Prior to his NBA career, Allen was a great college player at the University of Connecticut. He left UConn following his junior year to enter the famed 1996 NBA Draft but 27 years after leaving college to pursue his NBA dreams, the 47-year-old Allen earned a bachelor’s degree in general studies at his alma mater. Regarding the accomplishment, Ray Allen had a more collective perspective, telling The Hartford Courant, “This day isn’t about me, it’s about the people that helped me along the way to finish this mission, be on this journey to graduate from college.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles is one of the few NFL head coaches with NFL playing experience. He had an eight-year playing career in the NFL during the 1980s and 1990s after his college days at Temple. Several decades later, Bowles earned his Bachelor of Science in youth and community development from Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland. His graduation was very special for Bowles, who at 59 years old, walked across the stage for that degree and to fulfill a promise to his mother. “Completing my degree was something I had always wanted to do over the years, because it was something I had promised my mother when I went to play in the NFL, and I wanted to follow through on that promise,” Bowles said back in September.
It is significant that these African/Black men made sure to complete their college degrees despite their busy lives due to their successful athletic careers. “Among adults ages 25 and older, 28% of Black adults have a bachelor’s degree or more education,” according to 2021 Current Population Survey data. It was already rare for those men to have professional careers in athletics and they also display that it is never too late to earn a college degree. However, the college degrees given to three late University of Virginia football players, who were young African/Black men killed in last year’s tragedy, whose memories were honored last month is very noteworthy on another note.
Staff Writer; Mark Hines