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