While we may view our favorite pro athletes as gifted and talented, many of them went to college just like millions of other civilians. Whether they started at community college like Philadelphia Eagle’s cornerback Darius Slay Jr. or attended a top-notch university on a full-ride scholarship like Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool, these phenomenal athletes didn’t just put in the work at the gym and on the field—they started by putting school first. Here’s a look at five amazing athletes’ careers and their alma maters.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts: The University of Alabama and the University of Oklahoma
Drafted as the53rd pick in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft, Jalen Hurts had every Sooners fan on their feet during the 2019 season playing for the University of Oklahoma. But he started off his football career majoring in Communication at the University of Alabama from 2016–2018 before transferring to Oklahoma in 2019. Hurts was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles and signed a $6 million, four-year contract. As of right now, he’s the new starting quarterback for the Eagles, replacing Carson Wentz, who played four seasons on a $128 million contract.
Wide receiver CeeDee Lamb: The University of Oklahoma
You’ve probably heard of CeeDee Lamb, arguably the top steal of the 2020 wide receiver’s class. Lamb was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys as the 17th overall pick of the season. He majored in Communication and played football all four years of college at the University of Oklahoma—including one season with Jalen Hurts. Lamb proved to have the greatest hands, especially for a rookie, with 74 catches for 934 yards. As of today, he’s one of the Cowboys’ lead receivers and has a four-year, $14 million contract.
Linebacker TJ Watt: The University of Wisconsin
The last name Watt might seem very familiar—TJ Watt is the younger brother of JJ and Derek Watt. TJ has quickly made a name for himself in the NFL, being voted to represent the American Football Conference (AFC) in the Pro Bowl for three seasons in a row as well as being named the AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2020. He played football for the University of Wisconsin and majored in Retailing & Consumer Behavior. For the 2020 season, TJ had the most sacks with 15, as well as 43 tackles, two forced fumbles, and one interception. He was drafted in 2017 and had a four-year, $9 million contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the NFL’s greatest defense teams.
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs: The University of Maryland
Stefon Diggs played football for three seasons at the University of Maryland from 2012–2014 while majoring in American Studies. He entered the 2015 NFL draft and was picked up by the Minnesota Vikings in the fifth round as the 146th pick, though he now plays for the Buffalo Bills. Diggs has made the playoffs, lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in the conference championships, and averages $15.9 million per year. According to ESPN, he can run 23 miles per hour.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: Miami University
As a Steelers fan, I personally consider Ben Roesthlisberger—Big Ben—to be one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, along with Drew Brees. He graduated from Miami University with a bachelor’s degree in Education. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers as the 11th overall pick and is currently the last actively playing quarterback of the 2004 Miami U class. Roethlisberger has won two Super Bowls in his career: Super Bowl XL (2006) and XLII (2009). In the 2020 season, he had a winning streak of 11–0 before it was broken by the Washington Football Team. Roethlisberger’s seasonal rates for the 2020–2021 season include 3,803 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.
Every pro athlete has their own story. Each of these stars started playing college football and worked hard by training any chance they got. But they made it big by choosing to do more than just throw all their effort into sports; they chose the school where they felt the most comfortable, one they felt would bring out the best in them every time they stepped onto the field. You can follow in the footsteps of these great athletes by choosing the college or university with the best academics, sports, and health benefits for you—a school that makes you feel at home.
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