A decent amount of Bengals players leave college early to pursue their NFL dream, so it’s always great to see a player finish college as a pro.
One of my favorite parts of the offseason is tracking players who decide to finish their college education after they turn professional. Of course, college football players only have to remain at school for three seasons before declaring for the draft. This means they can declare for the NFL Draft as juniors, or even redshirt sophomores.
Every year, there are cool stories about players getting their college diplomas. Around the NFL recently, Larry Fitzgerald finished his education online at the University of Phoenix, and got to walk across the stage inside the Cardinals’ stadium. It fulfilled a promise he made to his mother over a decade ago. Deshaun Watson also made it a point to finish his education at Clemson in three seasons so he could declare for the draft as a junior with a college degree.
Last season for the Bengals, John Ross had a fascinating story about graduating. He was pushed to finish his coursework before the deadline for graduation, but was able to do it. However, by staying in school, he had to report late to Bengals rookie camp. Although this set him back as far as his football career, he was very proud to finish his college education. In fact, he was the first college graduate in his family.
This season, there are a few Bengals players who have already graduated. Both cornerback KeiVarae Russell and wide receiver Cody Core received their degrees before camp started. Defensive tackle Andrew Billings received his last Saturday. Russell, a Bengals waiver acquisition, has posted multiple times on Twitter about how excited he was to finally receive his college diploma. In fact, he even posted a picture of his final exam score – an impressive 87%.
Core seemed equally excited as Russell to graduate, as he also posted on social media about his graduation. Core, a former 6th round pick of the Bengals, may be a little more recognizable to fans as he’s seen the field more often than Russell. Billings was seemingly also excited, since he traveled to Waco to graduate in the middle of training camp.
Coach Marvin Lewis has openly spoken about the importance of graduating from college. In the offseason, he held a meeting to talk to the young players about graduating from school. He claimed college graduates are more intellectually ready to handle the rigors of an NFL lifestyle, and he may be right. The NFL has done studies that show college graduates tend to last longer in the NFL than non-college graduates. Either way, it’s always very cool to see Bengals players achieve a dream and get their diplomas.