Some players are held up from joining their NFL team until their college class graduates.
But for Packers defensive lineman Johnny Jolly, the degree he received yesterday is far more important.
According to Chris Roth of WBAY in Green Bay, Jolly was in a Houston courtroom Wednesday, receiving a diploma for completing a drug treatment program, which was the final step in his attempted return to the Packers.
“I know I’ve seen a change, and I know your family has seen a change, and we are just so darn proud of you today just for the progress that you’ve made,” said judge Denise Bradley, who originally sentenced him. “I didn’t know if we would see this day happen.”
Jolly hasn’t played since 2009, when he was suspended for multiple drug arrests. The Packers have been willing to give him a chance, but the progress he’s made off the field is the only reason.
“[Judge Bradley] seen something in me,” Jolly said. “Even though she gave me the sentence, she saw something in me. Today I stand here a free man.
“My life is going great. I’m back with my team, the Packers. I just want to thank her. She’s done a really good thing for me. That was a blessing.”
The Packers sent director of player development Rob Davis and senior personnel executive Alonzo Highsmith to Houston for the ceremony, another sign they’re backing his attempt.
He’s rejoining the team for OTAs next week, with no illusions about his chances.
“I don’t know anyone who sat out three years and was able to go back to the same team,” Jolly acknowledged. “I met with the Packers a couple of weeks ago. They understand my situation and they are willing to be there for me, so I’m just doing everything I can to be in shape and do everything I need to do for my team.
“They have been there, and I’m going up there to do my best to show them what they want to see this year. So I’ll be doing everything in my power to get ready.”
If he gets back on the field, it will be impressive. But not as much as the comeback he just authored.