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Former Oklahoma Thunder Football Player Gets Master's After Paralyzing Injury

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TULSA, Oklahoma -

For a while, going across the stage to pick up a college diploma didn't seem likely for Emeka Nnaka.

"When I was at ORU I racked up some expensive Fs, so I transferred to TCC where I racked up some cheaper Fs," he said.

Nnaka‘s darkest moment wasn't in the classroom, but while playing semi-pro football with the Oklahoma Thunder. He suffered a spinal cord injury, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.

“What I did not realize after breaking my neck was that I really didn't have anything to fall back on. My G.P.A. was low, I was on academic probation,” he said.

Nnaka's battle was now physical as well as mental.

The Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges provided a fresh perspective.

“One of the first places that really helped me to change my mindset in overcoming disability in itself,” he said.

4/16/2014 Related Story:  Former Semi-Pro Football Player Takes Leap Of Faith After Crippling Injury

After three years of being away from school, returning never crossed Nnaka's mind, but a speaking engagement at the Langston University Tulsa campus with one professor changed his mind with one question, “What are your plans for school?”

“What he did is provided me a pathway to be the person I knew I could be. In doing so, he gave me hope,” Nnaka said.

Shortly after, Nnaka graduated with a bachelor's degree at Langston University, but he wanted more.

“My whole mission was to get a degree before I turn 30, and here I am, getting my Master's degree at 30,” he said.

Nnaka said he's reached elite company with his younger sisters, who already have Master's degrees - thanking those along the way for the years of continued support.

“I'm the sum total of the people I have interacted with,” he said. “To be able to show there is a little return on the investment that this community has made in me. To be someone that never put a value on education. To be in a place now where people see me as someone that's educated. It's my single greatest accomplishment.”

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