An England under 21 footballer who became only the second player in the Premier League to graduate with first class honours modestly thanked his "awesome" club and tutors.
Sunderland forward Duncan Watmore juggled intensive training sessions required to break into the first team with long hours of study in the evening poring over textbooks and catching up on lectures on line.
His proud parents Ian, former chief executive of the Football Association and an ex-senior civil servant in the Cabinet Office, and Georgina, a rector in Cheshire, proudly watched the graduation ceremony at Newcastle University.
Club boss Sam Allardyce allowed him a day off training to collect his first in economics and business management.
He started his degree at Manchester University when he was playing non-league football with Altrincham, but switched to the North East and Newcastle University after impressing Sunderland scouts.
In recent weeks he has earned good reviews for his incisive, direct style of play, which has coincided with an upturn in Sunderland's fortunes.
And last month he came off the bench for England under 21s to be man-of-the-match in a 3-1 win over Switzerland.
After the the graduation ceremony, he said: "It's a really nice feeling. It has been a lot of hard work in the past three years.
"It is good to get it done."
His was not the usual student experience, with late night pizzas and evenings out sampling Newcastle's famous party scene.
"You have to sacrifice a lot with football but that was something I was more than willing to do because football was my ultimate aim and the degree was something I just wanted to do in the evening to catch up at night.
"It was not the typical student life, I missed out on a few things but I really enjoyed it.
"It was hard, there were a lot of long nights in my flat just catching up, reading text books, going online for lectures, emailing lecturers.
"It was hard at times but the club at Sunderland were awesome with me, and so were Newcastle University.
"They were both always willing to compromise to help me to get through, they were massive in what I achieved and so I'm very grateful for that."
Watmore said a typical day involved training and gym work before he would go back to the flat where he lived alone around teatime to start his studies.
"There are a lot worse jobs to combine a degree with than football, so I can't really complain," he said.
Asked what his team-mates thought, he replied: "You get a bit of good-natured banter but they are class.
"I received a lot of support from them, which was really nice.
"I didn't make too many course mates because I was never in to make them, I know a few people up here in Newcastle and so they were supportive as well."
Watmore did have a more typical student experience at Manchester University, living in halls of residence and sharing a kitchen with 10 others when he was also playing at Altrincham. "I properly experienced the uni side of things there, the last two years has been more the academic side."
Watmore, 21, was released from Manchester United's academy when he was 12 and he concentrated on enjoying school life afterwards.
He felt strongly there was still opportunities for players, like Premier League top scorer Jamie Vardy, to come up from non-league football.
But he shied away from thinking of himself as a role-model for parents who want their boys to continue their studies while striving to make the grade in professional football. "I see myself as someone playing football who is trying to get a degree, and managed to do that," he said.
He will keep an interest in economics and business but has no plans to continue formal studies for a Masters.
"I'm enjoying a bit of a break from it all," he said.
He will fully concentrate on his game instead, saying: "I'm just looking forward to playing as much as I can and if I play well I can do that.
"I know I have to play well, and hopefully I can."
The Premier League's only other footballer to gain a first-class degree was David Wetherall who graduated from Sheffield University in chemistry in 1992, having been on the books at Sheffield Wednesday. He played for Leeds and Bradford in the top flight.
Dr Francis Kiraly, undergraduate director, Newcastle University Business School said: "Duncan was an excellent student from day one.
"He has shown great enthusiasm throughout his time at Newcastle University and this last year we were very pleased to help him accommodate his football commitments as well as his dedication to his degree programme."
Dr Jonathan Jones, degree programme director, added: "He has shown maturity in balancing these responsibilities and we wish him all the very best at the start of his promising career."