Athletes Who Score Big in Education: The Surprising Doctorates of Sports Stars

25 January 2023

Athletes are usually celebrated for their strength, agility, and competitiveness. However, many of them have also attained noteworthy academic qualifications! In fact, there are plenty of renowned sports stars who actually own doctorate degrees in education. Here’s a peek into this impressive accomplishment by some notable athletes.

1. Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Jackie Joyner-Kersee is undoubtedly one of the greatest female athletes in history. She earned countless accolades and three gold medals, two silver medals, during her incredible Olympic career. But that’s not all; she also went on to receive a Doctorate degree in Education from USC with an emphasis on technology integration into physical education! Her research proved invaluable for other hopefuls looking to excel in their sport through modern approaches.

2. Bill Bradley

Bill Bradley was a two-time NBA Champion with the New York Knicks, and later became United States Senator from New Jersey. His renown on the court earned him a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University where he went on to pursue his Master’s degree in Politics and Economics as well as receive his Doctorate in Politics from Princeton University. An all-star athlete who continued greatness off of it, Bill Bradley is one outstandingly accomplished individual.

3. Walter Payton

After dedicating his career to being one of the greatest running backs in NFL history, Walter Payton proved that he could excel both on and off the field. Not only was he a fierce competitor who demonstrated absolute dedication to football, but also earned a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as well as a Doctorate’s Degree in Education from Jackson State University after retirement. His commitment and determination set him apart as an exemplary role model for aspiring athletes everywhere.

4. Steve Young

Steve Young, an iconic NFL quarterback and three-time Super Bowl champion with the San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, also possesses a Doctor of Education from Brigham Young University. His thesis examined how leadership can influence organizational effectiveness. Thanks to his illustrious football career and educational accomplishments, he gained numerous accolades including seven Pro Bowl selections during his time in the league.

5. Shahid Afridi

Shahid Afridi is one of the most acclaimed all-rounders in international cricket and a former T20I captain for Pakistan. Remarkably, he has also obtained a Doctorate in Education from the University of Arid Agriculture Rawalpindi, making him an example among many renowned athletes who have earned doctorates in education.

It’s evident that these sports heroes possess more than just athletic prowess; they are successful in the classroom as well. These athletes have demonstrated how one can excel in multiple domains, and their commitment to education is an example for others to follow.

6. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

NBA superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the all-time leading scorer in basketball, having won six championships with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. His illustrious career did not stop there; after retiring from sports, he went on to earn a master’s degree in education from UCLA and later achieved his doctorate at the University of California, Los Angeles. Truly an inspiration for us all!

7. John Elway

With a distinguished career as an NFL quarterback, John Elway is best known for his time with the Denver Broncos. He was awarded two Super Bowl championships and earned induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But that’s not all! After retiring from football, Elway went on to obtain a Doctorate in Education from the University of Northern Colorado – proving he truly is one-of-a-kind!

8. Jim Ryun

Jim Ryun is a celebrated American middle-distance runner who won multiple world records in the mile run. He earned an Olympic silver medal during his running career and also completed a doctorate in education from the University of Kansas post-retirement.

9. Debi Thomas

Proudly hailing from the United States of America, Debi Thomas was bestowed with a bronze medal in figure skating at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games. Having concluded her career as a skater, she then embarked on obtaining her doctorate degree in medicine from Stanford University and is currently practicing as an orthopedic surgeon.

10. Rulon Gardner

After becoming a gold medalist for Greco-Roman wrestling at the 2000 Summer Olympics, Rulon Gardner set his sights on education. He earned both a master’s degree in education from Western Governor’s University and then went on to acquire his doctorate of Education from the University of Northern Colorado. With determination and commitment to learning, he has achieved great success beyond the mat.

11. Alex Zanardi

Alex Zanardi is a legendary racing driver who captured the attention of audiences with his remarkable accomplishments in Formula One and the IndyCar Series. Not only did he become a two-time CART champion, but an incredible Paralympic gold medalist as well. After retirement from professional racing, Alex challenged himself further by obtaining both a master’s and doctorate degree in Business Administration at Bocconi University in Milan. His undying determination to excel has truly made him one of the greatest racers of all time!

12. Edwin Moses

Edwin Moses is a highly accomplished American track and field athlete, who proudly boasts two gold medals from the 400-meter hurdles in both the 1976 and 1984 Olympics. After retiring, his achievements did not cease; he earned a master’s degree in physics from Morehouse College as well as an impressive doctorate in bioengineering at Georgia Institute of Technology.

13. Michael Johnson

A true champion, Michael Johnson was an American sprinter who won four Olympic gold medals and established several world records. Following his athletic career, the decorated athlete achieved a master’s degree in sports management from the University of Texas at Austin along with a doctorate in sports management from the same esteemed university.

14. Nancy Hogshead-Makar

Nancy Hogshead-Makar is an inspiring retired American swimmer who excelled in the Olympics with three gold medals and one silver medal. After her amazing athletic career, she went on to further her education by obtaining a law degree from the Florida Coastal School of Law and a doctorate in education at the University of Virginia.

15. Dan O’Brien

Dan O’Brien, a retired American decathlete who won gold at the 1996 Summer Olympics, has added to his accomplishments by earning a Doctorate in Education from the Concordia University of Portland.

16. Myron Rolle

Myron Rolle is an acclaimed American football player who once defended the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers. He currently serves as a neurosurgery resident at Harvard Medical School, with impressive credentials including a Master’s in medical anthropology and Doctorate in the same field from Oxford University. An athlete of his caliber continues to be praised for achieving such academic success!

17. Adewale Ogunleye

Adewale Ogunleye, a former American football player and defensive end for both the Chicago Bears and Houston Texans, is an accomplished scholar as well. He has received both a master’s degree in business administration from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, as well as a doctorate in business administration from the same institution.

18. Nick Foles

Super Bowl MVP and Pro Bowler Nick Foles of the Chicago Bears is not only a current American football player, but he’s also pursuing his doctorate degree in psychology at Liberty University. His drive for excellence both on the field and in the classroom serves as an example to aspiring athletes everywhere.

19. Michael Strahan

A Pro Football Hall of Famer and celebrated TV host, Michael Strahan is a shining example of success. After retiring from the New York Giants as an esteemed defensive end, he earned his doctorate in psychology from Texas Southern University to further propel him into greatness.

20. Ryan Neufeld

Ryan Neufeld is an accomplished American football player who currently plays tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs. Not only does he excel on the gridiron, but he also holds a doctorate in physical therapy from the renowned University of Kansas Medical Center.

Being successful isn’t just about mastering one talent, it is about being diverse and making an impact in many fields. These athletes have demonstrated that with passion and persistence, anything is within reach. Not only do they stand out in sports, but their achievements in education also make them inspirations to others around the world.