From the gridiron to the classroom, 57-year old Marion Barber Jr. has accomplished plenty. Barber starred for the University of Minnesota from 1977 to 1981, then fulfilled his NFL dreams by playing for the New York Jets.
"If you think it, you believe it," Barber said. "If you believe it, you think it."
Today Barber is a special education instructor and an assistant football coach at Armstrong High. But the one thing Barber never had was a college degree - until Thursday night, when he finally graduated from the U of M.
"Being there with those students it was just unbelievable," Barber said of the ceremony at Mariucci Arena.
"I was kind of between bursting out in tears and I was just overcome with joy."
Barber took advantage of the Gopher graduate program, which allows scholarship athletes who did not get a degree to come back to the U of M and graduate. It was full circle for Barber, who returned to campus as a student for the first time in almost four decades.
"I have been on a 36-year spring break," Barber joked.
He quickly discovered that he was old school at his old school. Barber's classmates were much younger and so were some of his teachers.
"Literally I was the senior, in the group, the senior citizen," Barber said. "So I can do the AARP and get the senior citizen discounts."
Barber was not deterred by the generation gap. He just wanted to keep a promise to his mom that he would graduate.
"I know I got 10 A's and 2 B's in the last two years," Barber said.
Barber also felt that because he is an educator, it is crucial to walk the talk.
"Feeling ashamed of promoting something that I hadn't completed," Barber said, "almost like I was a hypocrite."
Those feelings have now vanished. Thanks to a delayed graduation, Barber has delayed gratification.
Eric Nelson, firstname.lastname@example.org