ATHENS, Ga. -- Rennie Curran was doing a book signing at the University of Georgia bookstore. While there, something caught his eye, something he decided to buy.

It was a frame. In it, a fake diploma from the University listed to John Doe. Above it, a picture of Sanford Stadium, where Curran originally made a name for himself.

“I walked across it and I was like, ‘I might as well go ahead and buy it now,’ ” Curran told 11Alive. “It was the contract with myself.”

Curran, 28, has been many things in his life. He’ll tell you he’s a father, a former Georgia Bulldog and motivational speaker.

Friday, Curran added one more thing to the list, college graduate.

Curran, a former linebacker, graduated from the University of Georgia on Friday, fulfilling not only the promise he made to himself, but a promise he made to his parents long ago. Curran calls it “the contract before the contract.”

His parents made him promise that no matter where football took him, he’d eventually get his degree.

“I didn’t know what football was,” Rennie Curran Sr., his father, said. “Regardless what goes on in football, you come back and get your college degree.”

Curran wasn’t thrilled at the time.

“I was like mom, you for real? You serious?” Curran recalled.

His mom, Josie Curran, drew up the agreement to keep her son on tack. As immigrants from Liberia in the 1980s, football knowledge was limited. Higher learning was non-negotiable.

“I look at football as short term,” Josie said.

In the grand scheme of things, football is short term. But Curran made it to the NFL, getting drafted in the third round in 2010. He moved to a new team almost every year, including those in the CFL. But through it all, he did everything he could to keep his promise.

“I would leave and go play for a season and then try to get back in school. It was like starting from ground zero,” Curran said, remembering how he’d flunk his first tests back every time.

But he did it for his daughter, Eleana, whom he needed to support. For seven years, it was a mix of football, classes, public speaking, writing and fatherhood.

Curran’s football career came to an end this year, just weeks before he was to fulfill his promise. Friday, he held up his end of the bargain and left UGA with a degree from the Terry College of Business. His real diploma will take the place of John Doe’s. Just thinking about replacing it in the frame makes Curran emotional.

“It’s so much bigger than a degree. It just feels good,” Curran said. “To make everybody proud, to make my daugher proud, to make my parents proud, it’s going to be a lot of tears today.”

Well earned tears for a man who has accomplished so much. Rennie Curran: the father, the former Bulldog, the motivational speaker...the college graduate.

PHOTOS | Rennie Curran through the years