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Graduation Day (Finally) For Two Exceptional NFL Alums

Two outstanding NFL alumni made off-the-field news in recent days when they obtained their college degrees decades after first enrolling in school.

Bucs head coach Todd Bowles, a starting safety who played in the league from 1986-93, missed the second day of rookie minicamp in Tampa last Saturday in order to graduate from Mount St. Mary’s University (MD). Not only did he receive his diploma that day, but he also addressed his fellow graduates from the stage.

“This is an amazing, amazing thing for me to be in a graduating class with you,” Bowles told his fellow graduates and their parents, who were closer in age to him. “I’m more nervous now than I ever was speaking in front of a locker room at halftime. I stuck with it and here I am at age 59. You are never too late to learn. I say to you, the Class of 2023, the future is yours, take it, grab it, run with it, be excited…and every now and then come back and thank your parents.”

On the day before Mother’s Day, Bowles gave credit to his late mom who served as an inspiration for him to return to school.

“I was a student athlete at Temple when I was younger,” Bowles explains. “I had a chance to sign as a free agent with the Redskins so I didn’t get my degree then. My mother never said anything, she just went along with it and she let me go ahead and live my life. She passed in 2009 and the only thing she asked me was to make sure I got my degree.”

Bowles had three other reasons to return to school. He has one son at Rutgers University, another graduating high school this spring and his youngest is in the sixth grade.

“It was personal honoring my mother, but I also wanted to show my boys, Bowles says. “Hopefully, they get some inspiration from this, and it can help them as they go forward.”

Pro Football Hall of Famer Rickey Jackson turned 65 last March. Forty years after he left the University of Pittsburgh to be drafted by the Saints in 1981, he graduated last month along with 2,500 other students as part of the 2023 class at Pitt. He had finished his last two history classes online and walked across the stage to receive his diploma.

“I was so close to it, and it made no sense not to graduate,” says Jackson, who splits his time living in Florida and New Orleans. “My mother would have loved it, my father wanted me to get it. I know they’d be proud of me if they were still alive. I was fortunate to win a Super Bowl with the Saints and I’d put my college degree up there with that win. This is something I achieved personally on my own so I would put it right up there with the Super Bowl.”

We at NFL Alumni congratulate these two great members as well as all of you who have returned to college to get that important undergraduate degree.