Last spring, New England Patriots defensive lineman Ty Warren stayed home from the team's offseason program for the first time in 2010 so he could complete his college degree. In doing so, he sacrificed $250,000.
That price can't match the feeling Warren figures he'll have Friday when he finally walks in Texas A&M graduation ceremonies.
"It could be a big smile on my face or it might be tears of joy," said the 30-year-old Warren, who has been with the Patriots since he was selected in the first round of the 2003 draft. "It's a big accomplishment for me."
Warren felt returning for his degree was important for his family, specifically the four daughters he has with his wife Kesha. Warren had also promised his late grandparents and parents that he would graduate, becoming the first person in his family to do so.
Warren joked that he's had family members checking up on him more over the last year than when he was in high school. He was scheduled to complete his last final exam Wednesday and a party is scheduled after graduation with family and friends.
In loading up on classes over the last year, the hardest adjustment for Warren was managing his time.
"The curriculum and studying was easy, the only thing that was difficult was multitasking when you have four daughters and [Kesha] is coaching a basketball team," he said. "I had to hold up my end at the house, working out early in the morning, then again in the afternoon, and trying to make it all work."
Staying home from the Patriots' offseason program last year helped, and when Warren was placed on season-ending injured reserve in training camp with a hip injury, it opened up more time for his studies. Looking back, Warren is pleased with his decision to forego the $250,000 workout bonus last year.
"I'd do it 100 times over again," he said. "When I was at the stadium, of course it's about football, but I also speak to everyone at the facility -- from the janitor all the way up. No matter who I was having a conversation with, we were all assessing our situation with the lockout. The writing was pretty much on the wall, which made it a pretty logical decision. The decision wasn't solely based on that, but it made it easier."
And, as it turns out, Warren isn't done just yet. In time, he plans to return to school to receive a master's degree in sports management, setting up the possibility that he could become an assistant athletic director. For now, though, he said his "focus is on getting back and doing what I have to do on the field."
Along those lines, Warren reported that he's feeling great after undergoing hip surgery last year. He knows he's closer to the end of his career than the beginning, but believes he still has a lot to offer.
"I know there are a lot of guys that went out last year with season-ending things, like every year, but I feel good enough where I could contend, even though I'm not that high profile of a guy, for a comeback player of the year [award]," he said.
"I think I can have that type of season. When I'm healthy, I feel like there's nobody better than me at '5' technique [left defensive end]. I feel that good, and to return back to that form, that's where I feel right now."
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.