New Uniform For Seahawks' Springs: Cap And Gown
Shawn Springs enjoyed many triumphs on Ohio State University's campus. The sweetest comes June 13, when he receives his degree in sociology.
Springs, 28, departed Columbus with a year of eligibility remaining when the Seattle Seahawks made him the third selection in the 1997 NFL draft. Like many other NFL players (about 250 a year over the last five years), he continued his education in the offseason so he could complete his course work and join about 20 others in getting that diploma.
''I've just been grinding it. It's a way of keeping busy. And I believe you should finish what you start,'' says Springs, a cornerback entering his seventh season. ''I've always looked at the NFL as a steppingstone toward later life.''
To encourage players to return to school (about half come into the league with a degree), the NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed last year on a tuition reimbursement program that will cover up to $15,000 in costs each season.
''Our message is that you need to think about life after football,'' says Mike Haynes, NFL vice president of player and employee development.
Haynes, 49, learned that lesson his rookie year (1976) with New England, when the Patriots released George Webster, billed by an assistant coach as the greatest college football player ever.
''One day he was there, and the next day he wasn't and it was business as usual. I thought, 'If they can do it to him, they can do it to me.' And I began to rethink the whole idea of my education,'' says Haynes, who got his degree from Arizona State in 1982.
Other proud 2003 grads: Green Bay tailback Ahman Green (Nebraska, geography), San Francisco linebacker Jamie Winborn (Vanderbilt, human organizational development), Seattle cornerback Willie Williams (Western Carolina, sports management).
Springs may pursue advanced degrees in sports psychology or child psychology with an eye toward a future in counseling.
''I know I like working with kids. And I know I like working with athletes,'' he says. ''Maybe someday they'll be calling me Dr. Springs.''