I'm talking about a couple of guys who will graduate on Saturday from the University of Alabama. A couple of guys -- footballer DeMeco Ryans and basketball big man Chuck Davis -- who understood that being in school and earning a degree, had meaning today and a decade from now. They understood patience.
Ryans could have declared for the NFL Draft last spring and been plucked in round three or four -- somewhere -- and been in somebody's camp earning a paycheck and probably making an active roster this year.
He fought whatever temptation there was, came back to school, and look what has gone on in his life.
From a professional standpoint, he is now seen as a virtual can't-miss outside linebacker prospect by NFL scouts. Mel Kiper has him at No. 3 among senior prospects. Ryans and Ohio State's A.J. Hawk are considered the top two outside linebackers in the draft.
Look at what Ryans gained personally. He earned a degree in management with a 3.65 GPA in seven semesters. He won an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship for being a finalist for the Draddy Award.
His play was essential in Alabama's 9-0 start. He'll be able to tell anyone who cares to listen, like his children and grandkids, he was a key player on Alabama's resurgence up the national polls, a revival that saw the Crimson Tide reach No. 3 in the Bowl Championship Series rankings and potentially be the fly in the ointment of the BCS championship game.
``It was great, one of the best seasons I've ever been around,'' Ryans said of Alabama's 10-week unbeaten run that allowed the Crimson nation to dream of an unexpected national title. ``We were riding the high horse, 9-0, they're talking about you on SportsCenter and Cold Pizza, all the attention we got.''
And Ryans went on a week-long awards ceremony blitz that had been unheard of around these parts, ending with his winning of the Lott Trophy last weekend. The Bessemer native racked up All-America honors from almost every entity that gives them out.
On Thursday of this week, Ryans pulled down an NCAA Top VIII honor, an award that combines athletics, academic achievement, character and leadershop.
Good choice, coming back to school?
``Probably one of the best decisions I've made in my life,'' Ryans said. ``To come back and be the leader of the team, have the guys following me and get back to a winning season -- it's great to say I was part of the 2005 season.''
Davis will take his sheepskin in management on Saturday, after only three-and-a-half years at the Capstone.
The angular senior never seriously considered leaving early, as so many of his fellow basketballers do.
Mobile's Kennedy Winston had that yearning, along with some data that seemed to show he could be a first-round NBA Draft choice. Winston needed to start earning a paycheck, so he left early.
Had you been at the Wings in Mobile on draft night you'd have seen a crushed young man using his shirt tails to wipe his tears. What went wrong for Winston's hopes is a story for another day.
But what if he'd have had the patience to return for a senior year? He and Davis would be driving forces on a team that would stack up as pretty salty in the SEC and beyond.
Instead, Winston is playing his trade out of the eye of the American public over in Spain, while Davis and his mates are trying to find consistent production at Winston's perimeter spot.
``My question to (players in a hurry) is what's wrong with a guy being here in our program?'' Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said at SEC Media Day.
``Kennedy Winston would be maybe the preseason SEC player of the year. He'd be an All-SEC guy. He'd be on track to graduate. He'd be enjoying his senior year. He'd probably have to play his way out of the first round.''
Let's raise a toast to Davis and Ryans, senior years and degrees.
Editor's Note: Thomas Murphy is the Alabama beat writer for the Mobile Register. He writes a weekly column for BamaMag.com.