It’s graduation time on campuses all across the country, with hundreds of college football players set to receive their hard-earned sheepskins. Two players in particular, though, merit special attention.
The first is former Penn State cornerback Stephon Morris, who received a degree with his fellow classmates Saturday. Morris had promised the late Joe Paterno back in 2008 that he wouldn’t leave the university without graduating. While that part of the promise went unfilled — he left after using up his eligibility following the 2012 season — he officially became a member of the PSU Class of 2015.
And, he said in quotes distributed by the school, the graduation allowed him to follow the Penn State way of football student-athletes.
“I wanted to be a part of ‘Success with Honor’ and the tradition of Penn State football players getting their degrees. I wanted to walk across that stage,” Morris said. “I want to be a part of that 87-percent graduation rate. I wanted to show the younger guys in the program now that if you set your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”
The other player is Tony Nathan, albeit with a significant.
Nathan, too, made a promise to another coaching legend, Alabama’s Bear Bryant, that he would “someday get my diploma.” That, though, was back in 1979 as Nathan had wound up his collegiate career and fallen behind in some classes because of the all-star game circuit. Nathan, who went on to a standout nine-year career in the NFL, needed Bryant’s permission to drop the classes, which the coach would only do if the player made the graduation promise.
36 years later, Nathan made good on his promises — he also promised his mother, wife and children — as the 58-year-old received his bachelor’s degree in arts & science.
He had kept his promise to Bear Bryant. He had kept his promise to his mother, his wife and his three girls. It took a long time to get there, a long time to make that walk. But it is done now. Tony Nathan is a college graduate and he absolutely loves the sounds of those words.
“I’m a happy camper right now,” Nathan said.
And a very proud one as well.
Congratulations to both Nathan and Morris for realizing their graduation dreams — and fulfilling their promises.