Jamize Olawale was only one class shy of earning a bachelor's degree in sociology when he left UNT in 2012 to begin his career in the National Football League. After five successful seasons with the Oakland Raiders, Olawale is back in Denton finishing up his degree and completing off-season workouts with the Mean Green football team.
"I've always wanted to finish my degree, but every off-season, something came up that prevented me from coming back," says Olawale, a fullback whose contract with the Raiders goes through 2018. "This year, my wife and I finally had the opportunity to come back to Texas and finish our degrees."
Olawale transferred to UNT in 2010 from El Camino College in California and played two seasons as a receiver for the Mean Green. It was in his first class at UNT that he met Brittany Lewis, now his wife.
This spring, the couple returned with their three children to complete their final coursework. Jamize is finishing his class online while Brittany enrolled in the 12 hours she needed to complete her undergraduate degree in emergency administration and planning.
"My father instilled the value of education in me and my brother, who graduated from Columbia and is now in medical school," Olawale says. "Having a degree was always a priority because it gives me something to fall back on when I'm done, because I can't play forever."
The Olawales believe in starting what you finish and consider an education a valuable asset.
"It's possible to be successful without a degree, but we felt like it would be more difficult to harp on our kids getting their degrees if we didn't have ours," Olawale says. "It's a priority."
In addition to studying, Olawale is working out with the Mean Green football team twice a week and enjoys getting to know the players and coaching staff.
"I haven't been back to campus since I left. It's been good to see all the changes, especially in the athletics department," says Olawale, whose senior season coincided with the opening of Apogee Stadium. "The program is on the way up and I can see -- especially through the players and coaches -- that a lot of good things are happening here."
"UNT is unique. It's not something you can explain to people," he says. "My time here was very meaningful which is why, by the end of this semester, I want to be a UNT graduate."