Roethlisberger shows off his smart side

Ben Roethlisberger has built a reputation for being the tough, strong-willed quarterback in the NFL.

The highlights that spring to mind are the ones where the Steelers quarterback is bouncing off a blitzing linebacker and running around in the backfield before launching a deep pass downfield. He plays a backyard style of football and isn't known for picking apart defenses like Peyton Manning.

But Roethlisberger showed he is smarter than many given him credit for after graduating from Miami (Ohio) this past weekend. The 30-year-old Roethlisberger received his bachelor's degree in education about nine years after leaving for the NFL. Roethlisberger joined nearly 600 students during Sunday's commencement ceremony, and he should be proud of this accomplishment.

No one should be surprised by Roethlisberger going back to school. It only takes a few games to realize he's a determined guy. Whether it's a broken bone or a 300-pound defender trying to break one of his bones, few obstacles stop Roethlisberger once he sets his sights on something. This time, he was four courses short of graduation. He completed those credits over several years before finishing this spring.

This year's draft class should also take notice of this. A record 65 juniors were eligible for this year's draft, which broke last year's record by nine. There will be guaranteed big pay days for first-rounders like Andrew Luck, but over one-third of these underclassmen were selected on Day 3 (fourth round or later) or went undrafted. Many won't survive the final major cutdown before the season opener, which will force them to pursue other careers.

While everyone has heard that lecture about the value of a degree, Roethlisberger taught another life lesson of finishing what you started. I'm going to go out on a limb and say Roethlisberger won't need his education degree once he is done playing. Still, this is about reaching a goal like the two times he hoisted up the Lombardi trophy.

"It's pretty special to me," Roethlisberger said after the graduation ceremony. "I'm proud to say I'm just not an alum. Now, I'm a graduate. It's an awesome honor. I'm proud of this school and not just for football now. I can be proud of the education that I received here."

The next step for Roethlisberger is his golf trip in Ireland and Scotland, where he will play 12 courses in 10 days. He believes this will keep him mind sharp. But, after getting his degree, he already appears to be ahead of the game in that respect.