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Friday, August 12, 2022

Why aren’t we talking about the pros that go back to college?

Good on you, George Hill.

“I can tell you that not even the NBA Eastern Conference Finals could have kept me from enjoying this moment,” Hill said at his college graduation Saturday.

The 32-year-old Cavaliers point guard actually missed Saturday’s practice, as Game 1 between Cleveland and the Boston Celtics was played on Monday, to receive his diploma from the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) college of liberal arts. However, we need to talk about the fact that this happened 10 years after leaving the college ranks to begin his professional career.

I applaud Hill’s decision to finish his formal education, especially because he’s already earned about 60 million dollars as an NBA player. I also respect that he did so working a full-time job that requires him traveling the country on a weekly basis for six to eight months of the year.

How easy could it have been for Hill? He jumped at the opportunity to become a big-time professional with a contract potentially worth millions of dollars and “settled” for that, at the expense of some college classes that, if we’re being honest, are a scam.

I can’t blame anybody for seizing the chance to get paid to play the sport they love, but these athletes’ choices to go back and finish what they started should garner more attention than they do.

The more these achievements are publicized, the better, because these same athletes are often stereotyped as unintelligent and best-suited to, as Fox News host Laura Ingraham said to Lebron James, “shut up and dribble.”

We, as the media who publish these stories and consumers who hit the share button, need to normalize the idea that these people aren’t just a bunch of dumb jocks.

And I would know.

I’ve interviewed plenty of UF athletes and coaches in my year and a half as a local sports reporter. I was a beat writer for the Florida volleyball team, and I can tell you that the team’s student-athletes and head coach, Mary Wise, are anything but unintelligent. I covered UF men’s basketball, too – head coach Mike White consistently gives well-articulated, detailed answers to media questions. Gators head football coach Dan Mullen is well-spoken and personable during interviews. All of these coaches are former players.

Percy Harvin and Ahmad Black, a pair of integral members of the 2008 national championship-winning football squad, have both returned to school and are currently finishing their degrees at UF.

But former Gators wide receiver Gary Rolle, who played in the 1982-84 football seasons, tops them all. I had the pleasure of interviewing him last summer.

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Rolle was eventually drafted by the Denver Broncos, where he spent his three-year NFL career. He didn’t see the field as much as he would have liked, but he still had to beat all sorts of odds to make it there in the first place.

But just competing for the chance to play football at the highest level wasn’t enough for Rolle, who spent a year enrolled in medical school – at the same time.

He went on to complete his education and is now an orthopedic surgeon two hours north in Tallahassee.

Shut up and dribble?

Try telling that to Rolle or Hill. Or Shaquille O’Neal, or Michelle Kwan, or Venus Williams, or any other athletes who fight the unfair battle for recognition of their intelligence – the unsung grads of the sports world.

An article from ESPN contributed to this report.

Andrew Huang is a sports writer. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewJHuang and contact him at

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