Often, when athletes are ready to move on to the pros, they leave the idea of college behind, whether or not they've managed to graduate.
It can be bittersweet for some of those colleges that have helped to develop today's best young athletes, like Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton and Kevin Durant. Those athletes brought their schools so much acclaim, and it can be sad to see them move on.
But have no fear: Sometimes, they return. Whether it's to deliver donuts to a class or to actually take a few of those classes with the intention of earning a degree, there are plenty of athletes out there who can't seem to leave their college days behind.
Here's a look at some of them.
These days, Russell Westbrook is most well-known for being a part of one of the fiercest tandems in the NBA and nearly leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to an NBA title last year. Before that, he was the pride and joy of one of the most storied programs in college basketball.
The Thunder point guard left UCLA after the 2007-08 draft to enter the draft, but that didn't mean he was too big league to return to the classroom in the summer of 2009, following his rookie year in the NBA.
According to The New York Times, Westbrook spent his summer back at UCLA taking summer classes, and two of his teammates went back to school as well: Kevin Durant and Jeff Green. The only problem was, Westbrook's teachers weren't too keen on the idea of giving him any special treatment for being an NBA star.
Once, when he dared to show up late to class, he told the Times' Jonathan Abrams:
The teacher just called my name out: "Hey, Mr. Westbrook. Nice to see you. Nice for you to show up." I had to walk all the way to the front and sit on the stage in front of the whole class the whole time. For two hours. I couldn’t go to sleep, couldn’t do nothing. For two hours.
When you're a busy athlete and you're spending all your time either in the weight room, getting college football logos tattooed on your body or dressing up as Nick Saban, it leaves little time for sleep.
That's why Reuben Foster had to resort to getting that done during class.
The Alabama recruit and future star linebacker was caught by an intrepid classmate getting some shuteye during a class at Auburn High School, according to YardBarker. It's not like no one has ever done it, but seriously—how did the teacher not see this happening?
The first photo of him with his head down at his desk—fine. Maybe it just looks like he's looking at his notes. But the one of him standing up and sleeping at the same time? That cannot be real.
The court of public opinion hasn't always been kind to USC football players in terms of their occasionally light class schedules. There was, after all, the infamous legend that Matt Leinart's only class during his final season with the Trojans was a ballroom dancing class.
So it should bring solace to some to learn that Matt Barkley actually did go to class as a senior. Real class, where people had to sit down, look at a board and take notes.
Back in November, right around the time that the 2012 Trojans embarked on their disappointing late-season slide, someone snapped this pic of the quarterback attending class and sent it to TerezOwens.com.
Though judging by what happened to USC at the end of 2012, maybe Barkley was spending too much time on his studies.
Just because you're a future No. 2 overall NFL draft pick doesn't mean you can skimp on your studies. Fortunately, though, Robert Griffin III didn't want or need to.
As if you needed another reason to like him.
Not only did RGIII graduate high school early so he could get a head start at Baylor, he finished up his Bachelors degree in political science in just three years and kept right on chugging toward a Masters in communication, which he finished in a year and a half.
And he wasn't the kind of student who slept through class, either. He was the kind of student who gave his professors a new purpose. Communications professor John Cunningham told the Baylor alumni magazine:
"Robert is the type of student that truly makes me feel blessed in my job. I wish I could clone him and have 25 Roberts in every class. As good as he is on the field, Robert may even be a better student."
Due to a contentious holdout that lasted throughout the 2012 preseason, Maurice Jones-Drew didn't do himself any favors as far as his reputation was concerned last summer. But in more ways than one, he's embarking on some reputation rehab, and it's actually going quite well.
The Jacksonville running back sustained a foot injury in 2012 that kept him off the field for most of the year, but instead of dwelling, he made some big life decisions that would pay off in the weight room and in the classroom.
Not only did MJD work hard to get himself back into optimal shape, but he also decided to return to school in January in the hopes of earning the business degree he promised his family he'd receive even after he left school early to pursue an NFL career.
But he doesn't plan to party like a college kid. He told ESPN.com:
I don't think I'll be a college kid again. College kids don't make what I make, and I don't party like that, don't do those things. I just go to school and catch up on a lot of sleep. I have to get here at 6:30 every morning and I've got three kids at home, man. I don't get a lot of sleep with those guys.
So many athletes these days jump ship to the pros before graduating from college that the ones who do decide to stay certainly deserve some props.
But still, Vince Carter couldn't graduate from college without some controversy.
The 15-year NBA veteran was in the midst of his third season with the Toronto Raptors when his graduation from the University of North Carolina came about. And what else happens right around the time college kids are graduating? The NBA playoffs.
Carter wanted to go to his graduation, but the problem was, the Raptors' seventh game of the Eastern Conference semis fell on the same day. Carter still managed to make it to graduation and get back to Philly for the game in plenty of time, but because the Raptors lost, he couldn't escape the criticism.
More and more professional athletes these days seem to be spending their offseasons in the classroom. It's in style, and nobody's complaining about it.
Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo is one of the latest to get in on the trend. As an undergrad, he attended UCLA, but now, he's setting himself up for what life after the NFL might bring by going to George Washington University for his MBA.
The school has a program tailored toward athletes, according to The Washington Post, so guys like Ayanbadejo can come to school in two-week chunks in order to complete their degrees.
The only problem for Ayanbadejo was that instead of celebrating the Ravens' Super Bowl victory with the rest of his teammates earlier this month, he had to do his homework. He told the Post:
Everyone’s trying to go to Disneyland and have a good time, but actually I have school next week. I’m halfway through my MBA at George Washington University, so I gotta go to school. At least I’ll go to school a world champion.
Apparently, being a two-time Olympic medalist and a five-time world figure skating champion wasn't enough for Michelle Kwan.
The overachiever has plenty of degrees, some of them real and some of them honorary. She went to the University of Denver for her Bachelors and has an honorary degree from Southern Vermont College, but there's one more diploma hanging on her wall these days.
Kwan—who earned the silver medal for the U.S. in Nagano in 1998 and the bronze in Salt Lake City in 2002—graduated from Tufts University in 2009 with a Masters degree in international relations.
Shaquille O'Neal wore many hats throughout the course of his NBA career. He was, of course, a four-time NBA champion. He was, at one point, Kazaam. But he's not as well-known for being a model student.
Not only did Shaq go back to LSU after leaving school for the NBA back in 1992, he also earned his MBA through online courses at the University of Phoenix. And as if that weren't enough, he completed his doctorate at Barry University in Miami, Fla., in 2012.
While plenty of players are content to relax during their retirement, Shaq has never been one of them. Preparing himself for life after the NBA has always been Priority No. 1, and with all those degrees, he should have plenty of options if people decide they don't care what he thinks about basketball.
Tyrann Mathieu, otherwise known as the Honey Badger, had plenty of disciplinary problems over the summer that ultimately led to his dismissal from the football team.
So the last place anyone expected to see him in September was in the classroom. Nevertheless, there he was.
The Honey Badger made a name for himself with the Tigers as an electrifying kick returner and a quarterback, but he couldn't overcome a drug problem and was forced off the team. In an effort to turn his life around once and for all, though, he resurfaced in the classroom in 2012—to the befuddlement of his peers.
One confused member of a class entitled The Olympic Games: Ancient and Modern snapped this photo of Mathieu in class back in September and sent it to Busted Coverage, accompanied by a quip about seeing the Honey Badger in "his natural habitat."
Apparently, Johnny Football is too much of a superstar to go to school with the laypeople.
The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner—the first freshman to ever win college football's most coveted award—attended school like a normal student until he helped Texas A&M make its unexpectedly awesome debut in the SEC. And once he achieved football immortality, it was goodbye to the classroom and hello to online education.
According to the Star-Telegram, Manziel was essentially forced to take online classes when he accidentally caused an uprising in his English class: "I went one day, and it kind of turned into a little more of a big deal than I thought," he told the paper.
Derrick Dockery has a lot on his plate, but that didn't stop him from completing his studies. World, take note.
The offensive lineman has spent 10 years in the NFL, his time split among Washington, Buffalo and Dallas—and when he went in the third round of the 2003 draft, it meant departing the University of Texas early. Those days, he wasn't that into school, according to the Times-Union; but these days, he's seeking to change the perception people have of NFL players.
Dockery wants to prove they care about getting their degrees, too, so he's also in that program at George Washington University that allows athletes to complete their studies in two-week chunks. He told Joseph White:
When I walk into a room, I want to be one of those guys who's engaging and knows what he's talking about. This gives me an opportunity to garner those skills and get that information that I need, so when I do walk in that meeting I'm prepared, I know what I'm talking about. I'm a better student now because I take it more seriously.
To play basketball at Duke, you have to be disciplined—on the court and in the classroom. This isn't one of those schools where you're allowed to skimp on going to class if you don't feel like going. The players seem to value the opportunity to get a degree from one of the most competitive schools in the nation, and as a result, it seems that very few of them opt to leave early for the NBA.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that prize recruit Jabari Parker apparently spends his high school days actually applying himself.
Parker was recruited heavily by a handful of top-tier programs, including Florida, Michigan State and Stanford, but he opted for Duke. Until he arrives in Raleigh, though, the 2012 Gatorade National Player of the Year is spending his time wisely soaking up as much as he can in high school before entering the grueling world of a Blue Devil.
Fourteen current NFL players are part of an invitation-only program at George Washington that allows them to earn their MBA on a special schedule. We've already talked about two of them, and Titans linebacker Will Witherspoon is a third.
Witherspoon, who is also an organic farmer in addition to an MBA student in the offseason, wants to know everything he could possibly know in order to expand his enterprise and start a renewable energy company, according to The New York Times. That's where GW comes in. He didn't want to wait until retirement to get his masters, and this program—and its rigorous schedule—allows him to get the work done now.
Witherspoon's teammates may not understand, but that doesn't bother him. He told the Times:
Some of my teammates were like: "You’re going back to school now? What?" But for me, there’s no time like the present. You have a short window in football, and then you’ve got to be ready for what’s next.
Props to him for always thinking about what's next.
There are some guys who think they're so big league that they shouldn't even have to take classes on campus with their lowly peers. (Hello, Johnny Football.)
And then there are others who prove that is a load of BS.
Johnny Manziel may be one of the best players in college football, but he's still just a college kid—and if an NFL quarterback can show up to class and avoid getting bum-rushed by his peers, so, too, can this year's Heisman winner.
Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton—who was the SEC's finest before Johnny Football came along and won the Heisman Trophy back in 2010—showed up to class on a random Thursday armed with donuts and orange juice for his entire class, just because. Was Newton trying to stick it to Manziel? Maybe. Or perhaps he's just a nice guy who likes enjoying breakfast with his classmates.