Tuesday, May 17, 2005

By Nick Wagoner
Staff Writer

Typically, when a player enters the NFL, he is set for life financially. But when Rams cornerback Kevin Garrett received his masters degree in liberal arts from Southern Methodist last weekend, he truly set himself up for life.

Finding professional football players with undergraduate degrees from their respective universities is a difficult enough assignment. Finding those rare players that continue their education even after earning their degree is even more uncommon.

With the understanding that there is life after football, Garrett realizes how important an education is for his future.

“It’s real important,” Garrett said. “Football is not forever. You read stories about guys who never finished school and don’t have anything to fall back on and then they get injured or somehow or another fall out of the league with nothing to fall back on. It’s a safety net to know I have something to rely on if football doesn’t work out.”

The NFL approaches rookies soon after they are drafted offering them the chance to finish or continue their education. Garrett earned a pair of degrees from SMU in psychology and marketing and had already started toward the masters in liberal arts while in school.

After the Rams selected Garrett in the fifth round of the 2003 draft, Garrett thought he would have to put his education on the back burner. When he found out that he could finish that education for free, it returned to the forefront.

“I was already halfway finished when I got to the league,” Garrett said. “I like to finish things when I start them. I was already there. The league gives the players the opportunity to finish classes for free so I might as well take advantage of that situation. I went ahead and did that.”

The next step for Garrett was figuring out how he was going to get an SMU education while living and playing football in St. Louis. That part became easy soon after he made the appropriate contacts with the league.

After placing a call to say that he wanted to finish his degree, the league set him up with a dean at Washington University. With the cooperation of Washington University, Garrett was able to take all of his classes there and transfer the credits back to SMU.

Garrett isn’t exactly sure what he wants to do when his time in the NFL is over, but he has a few ideas of what he would like to do.

“I like working with people,” Garrett said. “I like the creative side of things, I like working with kids, hopefully somewhere in marketing or advertising and being cordial and friendly to people.”

As Garrett stood in front of family and friends for his first commencement ceremony (he missed his undergrad ceremony because of a track meet), Garrett reflected on the value of an education. With two parents having a background as educators, the move to finish his degree was obvious.

With a pair of undergraduate degrees and a masters under his belt, there isn’t much more for Garrett to accomplish in school. Or is there?

The thought of going back for more might be too much now, but he isn’t ready to rule it out, either.

“I am content right now, but if I get bored or something and the league is offering athletes the chance to go back to school for free I might take advantage of it later on,” Garrett said. “You never know.”