by Rob Joyce

It’s officially graduation season, as millions of high school and college students across the country will be handed their diploma and move on to the next chapters of their lives. Of course, a college degree is far from a requirement for pro athletes, many of whom will leave school early to turn pro. For some of those stars, though, a big payday hasn’t stopped them from returning to school and putting on that cap and gown, no matter how long it takes.

Among all of the college graduates entering the real world, here’s five you may recognize:

Andrew Hawkins:

For the Culture. @Columbia

A post shared by Andrew Hawkins (@hawk) on

The free agent wide receiver graduated from Toledo and has enjoyed a six-year NFL career, the last five of which came with the Browns. As he looks for a roster spot with another team, he has an impressive new fallback option. With a desire to one day become a general manager, Hawkins graduated from Columbia with a master’s degree in sports administration – with a 4.0 grade point average.

Drew Gooden:

The NBA veteran left Kansas after his junior season in 2002 to turn pro, enjoying a 14-year career in which he played for 10 different teams. Between taking classes online during his career and during the offseason he was finally able to finish his bachelor’s degree in communications in Lawrence and graduate as a Jayhawk last week.

Marcus Camby:

Camby’s time at UMass was controversial – he led the John Calipari-coached Minutemen to their first Final Four appearance in 1996, only to have it vacated by the NCAA after accepting gifts and money from agents. However, it was all smiles in Amherst from the 16-year NBA vet as he completed his degree online, a mere 24 years after first beginning college.

TJ Ford:

The former All-American led Texas to the 2003 Final Four, then turned pro. However, his NBA career cut was short due to spinal stenosis, as he suffered a number of scary injuries related to the condition. Officially retired from professional basketball, Ford graduated in Austin last weekend, sharing an emotional exchange with former coach Rick Barnes.

Torey Krug:

Less than one-third of NHL players come from college, and among that faction only a percentage actually carries a degree. The Bruins’ defenseman adds at least one more to that list, as earlier this month he completed his degree from Michigan State. According to a blog post he published in December, when he left East Lansing after 2012 he had 38 credits left for his political science major, and with a degree in hand he hinted that law school could be an option once his hockey days end.


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