A fashionable graduation
Usually on graduation day, students bring out their best suits or dresses, have on their nicest shoes and wear their favorite tie or pieces of jewelry to help commemorate one of the biggest and most memorable days of the their lives.
On Friday, just outside of Gregory Gym, where the UT College of Education holds its commencement ceremonies, several Longhorn football players preparing to make their distinguished walk gathered to greet each other and take pictures.
As it happened, more than one decided a fitting accessory for their biggest academic accomplishment would be the symbol of their biggest athletic accomplishment -- their National Championship rings.
"It draws a lot of attention," said fullback Ahmard Hall. "They see your graduating and you have that ring on, it just adds to it. People around you are already proud of you for graduating, but then when they find out you're an athlete that brought them a National Championship they've been waiting on for such a long time, it adds so much more to it."
Just as their rings were part of their wardrobe for the day, so too were their on-field accomplishments just a part of their overall achievements leading to graduation.
"It has to be the best thing that's happened to me," said kicker David Pino. "Playing football in college and being a student-athlete isn't as easy as everybody thinks, especially being at The University of Texas, which is one of the premier colleges in the U.S. Just to be able to say I finished school at Texas and was able to be on the football team, that's the biggest accomplishment."
"This is a great day," Hall followed. "I can't explain the feeling of just being able to walk across the stage and having accomplished something really big. Outside of sports, this is one of the biggest things you can accomplish in your life, and it feels great."
Possibly no one is more deserving of that great feeling than Hall, whose progression through the military as a Marine Sergeant to becoming a walk-on at Texas before earning a scholarship and starting role, all as a husband and father, is well documented.
"There was a lot of perseverance, you have to persevere and strive and keep pushing through everything that's placed before you," Hall described. "I knew I would be here one day, but the journey was long, and it was hard, and I'm just thankful for being able to be here right now."
After being named Big 12 Sportsperson of the Year, Hall's perseverance and work away from the field have been celebrated, and that will continue at campus-wide ceremony on Saturday night. Hall will be one of three students of the entire 2006 class to be recognized for their accomplishments.
"When I heard that, I was elated," Hall smiled. "The president of the university honoring me in front of the whole 2006 class is going to be an incredible thing, and I'm very grateful for the experience."
So of all of his accomplishments, where does graduation rank?
"This is at the top," Hall responded quickly. "Getting my degree, I think that's one of the most important things you can do, because you can't play sports forever. Your degree will allow you to be able to do good things for the rest of your life."
And as many people know, once a Texas football player earns his degree, it means they'll soon receive another ring for their collection -- the coveted 'T' ring for being a letterwinner and graduate. Of the Horns 31 seniors on its 2005 National Championship team, 20 can expect to soon have the matching set -- 15 who already had their degrees in hand when they played in the Rose Bowl and five who earned them this week. Five more will graduate this summer and one more in December. Of the remaining seniors, four are working to make NFL rosters.
"It's pretty unique," Pino said. "To have a National Championship ring and to be graduating from Texas and getting my T-ring, which I'm definitely ready to get, it's a very unique combo."
Not to mention they make pretty good accessories to a college career.