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January 17, 2021

9 Inspiring Stories About Sportspeople Who Prioritized Education

Many athletes reach their prime early in their lives. Many times, this forces them to sacrifice their education to focus on their careers. 

However, the journeys of these athletes show that their success in sports has only inspired them to get back to pursuing their education. Despite their demanding lives, they found a way to complete their degrees and graduate in flying colors.

Michael Jordan

Do you have to write an inspirational essay? Ask the writers at EssayWritingService to help you write about the life of Michael Jordan. The world-renowned basketball player was studying at the University of North Carolina when he joined the Chicago Bulls. Post his success in the NBA, he returned to UNC to complete his bachelor’s degree majoring in geography.

Troy Polamalu

Celebrated NFL player Troy Polamalu enrolled in the University of Southern Carolina for his degree in history in 1999. However, in 2003, just before his completion, he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Polamalu did not let go of his academic aspirations, though.

He took advantage of the NFL lockout to return to USC and finish his degree in 2011. He was 30 at the time, and not so surprisingly, the oldest of the bunch in his class. In the later interviews, he emphasizes the significance of education and that nothing else should override it.

Michelle Kwan

The American figure skater who won two Olympic medals, nine U.S. titles, and 40 championships have a very accomplished academic career. Michelle Kwan was a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, when she dropped out to focus on her career. A decade later, in 2009, she graduated from the University of Denver in international studies. 

The following year, she joined the Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy to pursue her masters in International Relations. She went on to serve as a senior adviser in the U.S. State Department, and in 2016, she also played her role in Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign.

Brad Ausmus

Only 4% of major league players hold a four-year college degree. That is because managing the major league schedule and college can be extremely taxing, and players do not want to miss the narrow window to go pro. In Brad Ausmus’s case, his parents had made it clear that education should take priority. He was pursued not only by the New York Yankees but also by Dartmouth, Princeton, and Harvard for their teams.

The Dodgers catcher and currently the manager of Detroit Tigers chose to graduate from Dartmouth before he chose his baseball career. He is also one of the few Ivy-League educated players to take part in the World Series.

Alex Smith

Smith’s baseball career peaked when he attended the University of Utah. He was not only an excellent player, but he also managed to finish his four-year economic degree in two years. With a 3.74 GPA, he is deemed one of the smartest athletes who went pro. 

At the University of Utah, Smith posted a record of 21-1 as a starter and led a spread offense with Urban Meyer as the coach. In 2014, the University also awarded him an honorary doctorate.

Venus Williams

Venus Williams was home-schooled by her father. She went pro in the early years, accomplishing several titles and accolades. It was only when she was 35 years old that she finally got to go to college. Williams first enrolled in an associate program at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.

In 2015, she received her bachelor’s in Business Administration from Indiana University East. She entered college through an agreement with the university and the Women’s Tennis Association that allowed her to continue her professional career while taking up online studies. Williams went on to launch several business ventures, including an interior design firm and a fashion line.

Shaquille O’Neal

In 2012, this former NBA player made a surprising headline for earning his doctorate in education at Barry University. He was studying at Louisiana State University when he quit playing in the NBA. Later, he went back to LSU to complete his bachelor’s.

In a CNN interview, O’Neal shared that he earned his doctorate for his mother, who always stressed the importance of education. He also mentioned that his pursuit of knowledge is not finished. At the time, he was planning to attend law school. He is also a graduate of the New York Film Academy. O’Neal received private instruction in directing and cinematography that helped him in his career as a sports analyst and commentator.

Jaylen Brown

The Boston Celtics basketball player started winning state championships during his high school career itself. He was ranked the fourth-best recruit by ESPN, but he went on to play for the University of California, Berkeley under Coach Cuonzo Martin. He also pursued master-class magnet chemistry while taking his Cultural Studies of Sport in Education. He is also a top Chess player and was a member of the Berkeley Chess team. His interest ranges from a passion for languages and history to philosophy and more.

He had such varied accomplishments that CBA had to remind the NBA not to overlook him due to his intelligence and academic career. It is not far-fetched to say that he is indeed an all-rounder in sports and academics. 

Katherine Grainger

This British rower has five Olympic medals under her belt. But that is only one part of her achievements. Her string of impressive qualifications ranges from a law degree from Edinburgh University, an MPhil in medical law, to medical ethics from Glasgow University. The list is not over yet. She also has a Ph.D. in the sentencing of homicide from King’s College London. With so many merits, she has also served as Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University.

She is the most decorated female Olympian of Great Britain and is now the chair of U.K. sports, while also playing the part of chancellor of the University of Glasgow.

The Bottom Line

These athletes have proved that while competing against the world’s best, education is not an aspect they want to overlook. While we celebrate them for their athletic rigor, there is also plenty to learn from their commitment and motivation to go for what they want regardless of their age or position in life.

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