College graduation is milestone achievement no matter who you are, but as a former Ohio State student athlete (way back when in the 1980's) I know first hand how difficult it can be to train and compete in a sport and still keep up with your schoolwork. Sunday at Ohio State, 169 student-athletes successfully completed the juggling act and earned their degrees. All 169 of them deserve a special shout-out but I took special notice of three of the names on the list of Spring Commencement Buckeye graduates.
Former Buckeye basketball star Greg Oden was only at Ohio State for one year during his playing career. The eventual number one pick in the 2007 NBA draft helped lead coach Thad Matta's '07 Buckeyes all the way to the national championship game where they fell to back-to-back champion Florida. Oden's NBA career, unfortunately, was much shorter than anyone anticipated. After being taken No. 1 overall by Portland, Oden suffered a severe knee injury before he ever played a game. After missing a year for that, he returned and showed promise but suffered another devastating injury to his other knee and his pro career never became what it could have been.
To Oden's credit, he had an after basketball plan---to go back to Ohio State and earn his degree. Oden came back to Ohio State and became a student manager while Matta was still coach and continued in that role the last two years under Chris Holtmann. Oden, however, is a student no more, earning his bachelors degree Sunday. Oden made a big impact in his one year as a Buckeye player 12 years ago, but maybe made a bigger impact as a manager the last three, in becoming a high profile example of the value of an education. Well done, G.O. and congratulations.
Holmes, Mangold Return As Well
Santonio Holmes and Nick Mangold both left Ohio State a year before Oden arrived. They were first round picks in the 2006 NFL draft, Holmes going No. 25 overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Mangold, just four picks later, No. 29, to the New York Jets. Both had very successful NFL careers. The highlight for Holmes came in Super Bowl 43, when his spectacular touchdown catch with 35 seconds left gave Pittsburgh a 27-23 win over Arizona, with Holmes winning Super Bowl MVP.
Holmes made another big play Sunday, as like Oden, he too earned his bachelors degree, some 13 years after he played his last game for Ohio State. That game was the 2006 Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame and it was also Mangold's final game. The Buckeye center went on to become one of the NFL's best for more than a decade, making the Pro Bowl seven times and twice being named All Pro, as the best center in the league. He too earned his degree. Like Oden, Holmes and Mangold's desire to finish off their college education after their professional careers will hopefully serve as an example that education matters--even to guys who are financially comfortable and have been successful at the highest level.