When Chidobe Awuzie arrived in Boulder as a University of Colorado freshman in 2013, he had a goal and a dream.
As far as his family was concerned, the goal—a college degree—was non-negotiable. The dream—a chance to play in the National Football League—was up to him.
In typical Awuzie fashion, he not only achieved both, but did so in outstanding fashion. Last December, Awuzie earned his degree from the Leeds School of Business, reaching the goal in three and a half years. In April, Awuzie became the 60th overall pick in the NFL Draft when the Dallas Cowboys made him their second-round selection.
To those who know him well, neither came as a surprise.
CU's Director of Football Academics Katie Bason noted, "Chido is a representation of being [both] a student and an athlete first. That is amazing because it's very, very difficult to do. Most guys at some point find themselves prioritizing one over the other. Chido didn't do that. That's what made him really, really special."
According to Complete College America, fewer than 20 percent of college students at public universities in America earn their degree in four years. The fact Awuzie did it in three and a half years while playing Division I football is a testament to his work ethic and discipline.
Awuzie admits it didn't come easily. He says the atmosphere in the business school helped him succeed in the classroom in the same manner that good coaches helped him succeed on the field.
"When you start taking upper-division classes, you get teachers who know you and care about you and know your story," Awuzie said. "It gives you extra motivation to not let them down. I was able to have great teachers who cared about me and great classmates who took me in and helped me figure it out."
So just how important is that degree to Awuzie? The Dallas Morning News has reported he is expected to miss a day of his first professional football camp to walk in his graduation ceremony and pick up that diploma.
"I try to stay humble when it comes to accomplishments and achievements," Awuzie added. "But this is one thing I can really say I was able to tackle and did it without any expectations of doing it. I was able to set a goal early and accomplish it, so I really feel proud of this accomplishment more than anything else, honestly."