GREEN BAY — Nick Saban asks the question of his NFL-bound underclassmen each year, knowing some of them won’t be able to fulfill their good intentions. Nevertheless, when the University of Alabama head coach has players leave early — a regular occurrence given the Crimson Tide’s success under Saban — he still asks.
Years ago, he asked Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and last week, the Green Bay Packers’ Pro Bowl safety delivered.
“If you have a degree, you will have a lot more options and opportunities. (And) I think getting that education has always been important to Ha Ha and his mom,” Saban said in an interview last year, in advance of Clinton-Dix earning his degree in criminal justice. “I really appreciate that and I am really proud of him.
“I kind of make all the guys that come out early for the draft promise that they will come back and finish their degree. I know they won’t all come back and finish, but we really talk a lot to the players here about the fact you can’t play football forever. If you can play until you are 30 years old, you still have 50 years of life where you have an opportunity to do something else and have a purpose.”
Like wide receiver Randall Cobb, who got his degree from Kentucky in 2016, it took some time for Clinton-Dix, now entering his fifth NFL season, to finish all his coursework. Cobb said last year that his only regret was not earning his remaining credits right away.
“What’s the point of waiting, if you want to do it in the future (anyway)?” Cobb asked, adding that he’s now looking into MBA programs to continue his education while he continues his NFL career. “I’d been talking about it for years and I realized I was so close.”
Rookie first-round pick Jaire Alexander, second-year running back Aaron Jones and rookie seventh-round pick Kendall Donnerson, meanwhile, finished off their degrees more quickly. And Alexander and Jones’ graduation walks over the weekend went viral on social media, as both wore their Packers jerseys underneath their gowns — and Jones decorated his cap with a Packers logo as well.
Alexander said he autographed his No. 23 jersey that he wore for graduation and donated it.
“I gave it away afterwards. For a good cause,” he responded via Twitter.
After taking part in the team’s post-draft rookie orientation camp May 4-5, the rookie class was off last week before returning to Green Bay on Monday for the continuation of the offseason program.
The Packers’ organized team activity practices are scheduled to kick off next week.
Alexander earned his criminal justice degree from Louisville in just three years after enrolling early at the school.
Donnerson graduated in four years from Southeast Missouri with a degree in recreation/park administration.
Jones, a fifth-round selection last year from Texas-El Paso, returned to finish his credits this spring after vowing to his parents, Alvin and Vurgess, that he’d return to school after he came out early last year.
“I promised my parents after I declared for the draft that I would come back to get my degree. I had to uphold that,” Jones told the El Paso Times.
“This is the top right here. I worked four years for this day.”