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7 Athletes Who Earned their Degree After Going Pro

Success is not only measured by the amount of money you have. Of course, many athletes are blessed with riches and the majority leave college early to play in their respective sports. But at the end of the day, the saying goes “knowledge is power” not money and many athletes are aware of this. Even though most athletes do not initially get their college degrees to play professional, we see a lot of them going back to finish what they started. However, this is still not an easy task so here is a list of 7 athletes who went back to college and earned their degree.

Vince Carter, Small Forward, NBA

Vince Carter

Emmitt Smith, Running Back, NFL

Emmitt Smith

Troy Polamalu, Safety, NFL

Troy Polamalu was one of the hardest hitting safeties of the early 2000s, he anchored the Pittsburgh Steelers defense for 11 years after being drafted in the first round in 2003. Polamalu attended the University of Southern California, he was always known to have a strong passion for history. Troy believed he was born to be a USC Trojan and during the 2011 NFL lockout he used his time wisely and returned to USC to finish his degree. He graduated in 2011 with his bachelor’s in history.

Bo Jackson, Running Back & Outfielder, NFL & MLB

Bo Jackson

The 1985 Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson is seen as one of the greatest athletes of all-time. He was the only athlete to be named an All-Star in both football and baseball. He was the first overall pick of the 1986 NFL draft and didn’t disappoint fans on the field for both baseball and football. But more importantly, he didn’t disappoint his mother who he promised he’d return to school and finish his degree. He eventually got his Bachelor of Science in family and child development.

Michael Jordan, Shooting Guard, NBA

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan is known for being one of the greatest NBA players of all time winning all his NBA finals appearances. He played also played at the University of North Carolina and was determined to get his diploma. He is certainly one of the most successful black athletes in the entire world with his NBA records and Jordan shoe line. Jordan was drafted by the Bulls in the 1984 NBA draft, and only a year later, he made his way back to UNC to finish up his bachelor’s degree. Jordan chose to major in Geography in an era where schools were accused of enrolling athletes in fake classes to remain eligible and it was later found out that Geography was not one of those classes. Turns out Jordan had a passion for the world, go figure.

Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver, NFL

Larry Fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald was drafted in the first round of the 2004 NFL draft. Before that, he attended the University of Pittsburg for two years before declaring for the draft. Fitzgerald is currently still playing for the Arizona Cardinals in his 14 seasons still breaking NFL records. Fitzgerald’s mother passed away during his freshman year at Pitt. Larry always says his mother never carried about how good of an athlete he would be as long as he gets a college degree. 12 years after being drafted Fitzgerald graduated from the University of Phoenix with a degree in communications and a minor in marketing.

Shaquille O’Neal. Center, NBA

Shaquille O'Neal

Shaquille O’Neal is known to have a personality almost as big as his 7-foot frame. The NBA Hall of Famer was one of the most dominant players in the NBA for 19 years. He studied business at Louisiana State University but left college early to start his NBA career. Shaq went on to a wear multiple hats as an actor, rapper and currently a broadcaster for NBA games on TNT. The Diesel also returned to school during his playing career earning a bachelors in general studies as well as an MBA and a Ph.D. in education.

These athletes and many more show the importance of education. Making money is important but it isn’t the only thing in life. A lot of young athletes are quick to leave college to begin their career which is great. But life is not about how you start, it is about how you finish and there is no age too old to begin learning.


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