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Original Issue

A Matter of Degrees

KYNAN FORNEY, Falcons Guard  Graduated from Hawaii. Bachelor's in Sociology

Needing one class for his degree, Forney, 26, took a sociological methodology course through Kennesaw (Ga.) State, attending three two-hour classes a week. Forney, who transferred the credits to Hawaii (he left there in 2000), turned in a 20-page paper, "Smokeless Tobacco Use in the NFL," which he wrote after asking coach Jim Mora to pass out surveys to Falcons players. Says Forney, "With Coach handing it out, the guys had to take it seriously."

NICK FERGUSON, Broncos Safety  Graduated from Georgia Tech. Bachelor's in Management

Ferguson, 30, forfeited a $50,000 workout bonus and instead took five classes at Tech, finishing with a 3.2 GPA. Said Ferguson, "I felt like Charlie Brown. It was a tough adjustment sitting in a classroom with students younger than myself. I had to make sure my computer skills were fine-tuned." He would have been the first of 11 siblings to get a degree, but his sister Shanta Roberson, 23, graduated one week before he did, from Florida.

KEVIN GARRETT, Rams Cornerback  Graduated from SMU. Master's in Liberal Arts

Garrett, 24, whose parents are both school teachers, earned bachelor's degrees in both marketing and psychology at SMU and started on his master's before leaving the school in 2003. Since then he's taken classes at St. Louis's Washington University, including social science courses this spring, and says he finished with a 3.4 GPA. Says Garrett, "In the business world, the more pieces of paper you've got, the higher you climb up the ladder."

KEITH O'NEIL, Cowboys Linebacker  Graduated from Northern Arizona. Bachelor's in Liberal Studies

Nine credits short of his degree when signed by the Cowboys in 2003, O'Neil promised his mother, Nancy, he would graduate. He did it on the Internet. "You had to be at your computer at a certain time five days a week," says O'Neil, 24. "You had to do everything when the professor said to." After a writing course last year, this spring's schedule was recreation management and ... the history of country music. "I took it as a joke," says O'Neil, "but I learned a lot." --Sarah Thurmond