It's never too late to back to school and earn your degree.
That's the implied message Minnesotans and football fans of all kinds are receiving with former Golden Gopher gridiron great Bobby Bell set to graduate from the University of Minnesota on Thursday, 56 years after leaving the university to play professional football.
According to the Star Tribune, Bell, only 13 credits shy of earning a degree in Parks and Recreation, left the university after getting drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1963.
Bell, 74, is a winner. He was an All-American with the Gophers and played in a pair of Rose Bowls while winning the 1960 national championship. In the NFL he won a Super Bowl with the Chiefs. He is a member of both the College Football and Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But all of his football accolades pale in comparison to a college diploma.
"It’s the top of the pyramid, man. This diploma is something they can’t take away. It’s top of the list," he told the Star Tribune.
In an interview with the Pioneer Press last December, Bell explained that it was difficult parlaying his 1960s college education to modern classes that use Microsoft Excel, Word and Powerpoint, among a list of challenging assignments, one of which required a voiceover.
Consider the fact that Bell's original transcript at the U of M was written in pencil, the Pioneer Press notes.
Bell still has a rich relationship with the Chiefs, so he asked one of the team's technical experts to help him with one of his final powerpoint projects.
"I said, 'Ma'am, you got to help me,'" he said. "I went to her office and I did it there. We knocked it out. I think I got an 'A' on it. That was awesome."
Enshrined in 1983, Bell became the first Chief in franchise history to reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame. According to his Hall of Fame biography, former Gophers title-winning coach Murray Warmath described Bell as the “the greatest lineman I have ever seen.”
The New York Times points out the historical significance of Bell being part of Warmath's 1959 recruiting class – one of the first in the country to feature a number to elite black players.
Bell was so athletically gifted, at 6-foot-4, 220-pounds, that Minnesota's hockey and golf teams wanted him. Bell wound up walking on to the basketball team to become the first black player in school history.