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Source: Melinda Sinn, 785-532-5888, sinnpio@k-state.edu
Web site: http://www.dce.k-state.edu
Photos available. Contact media@k-state.edu or 785-532-2535.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

FORMER K-STATE WILDCAT READY TO TACKLE HIS DEGREE AFTER EARNING SUPER BOWL RING

MANHATTAN -- It seems like life couldn't get much sweeter for former Kansas State University football player Nick Leckey.

He recently wrapped up his sixth year as an offensive lineman in the NFL. He's playing in New Orleans, La., a city he and his wife, Erin, have come to love. And, if that weren't enough, he just added "Super Bowl champion" to his resume, following the New Orleans Saints victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl 44.

With all that, there's still one thing missing for Leckey: his college diploma from K-State. With that long-awaited goal in mind, he signed up for Second Wind, a K-State Division of Continuing Education program that helps former K-State athletes finish their degrees online.

"I think the older I get, the more I want that closure. I just want to truly be a part of K-State," Leckey said. "I want to get my degree. I don't want to be just another statistic of an athlete going to school to play football."

Leckey is the first to admit this drive for his degree wasn't always so strong. Back in 2000, as a new high school graduate in Grapevine, Texas, he ventured north to Wildcat country for one reason.

"To be quite honest, I mainly chose K-State because of the fact that they had a winning football program," Leckey said. "But looking back on things, I'm so thankful that I picked K-State because it gave me an opportunity to totally get out of my comfort zone. I loved just being on campus. I loved my professors. I fell in love with the whole state."

In spite of his immediate affection for the university and his success on the football field as a four-year starter who did not allow a single sack during his college career, academics didn't always come so easily.

While originally headed toward a degree in finance, things weren't quite clicking in the classroom. His adviser helped him rethink his academic path at the beginning of his junior year, leading him to switch majors to hotel and restaurant management.

"I'm so happy I found that major because that's me," he said. "I'm an offensive lineman. I weigh 300 pounds. I love to eat, I love trying new places and I love traveling, so I couldn't have found a more perfect major."

Having discovered the perfect fit academically, Leckey felt he was finally on the right course. But when the NFL came calling in 2004, he was 30 credits shy of his degree, having taken his last semester off to train for the NFL scouting combine. And while making it as a professional football player meant the fulfillment of onedream, in the back of his mind, Leckey said he never let go of that other dream that wasn't quite finished.

So in January 2010 Leckey signed up to go back to school through Second Wind, a program he'd heard about during his days on the football team at K-State.

"Great timing on my part -- we were right in the middle of playoffs," Leckey said. "I think my first test was the week after the Super Bowl. But all my teachers were very cool. I sent them an e-mail to let them know my unusual circumstances."

For someone like Leckey who lives in New Orleans during the football season, spends the offseason in Arizona and squeezes in visits back to Texas and his beloved college stomping grounds in Manhattan, the online program changes everything.

"The ease of use is amazing. The technology is the only way to do it if you have to work and you're out of state, like me. You don't have to be in two places at one time," Leckey said. "You go at your own pace. I got a big, month-at-a-glance calendar, and I just wrote in my exam dates, and what was due, and kind of had my reading planned out. It's worked out great for me."

With his football career moving full-speed ahead -- he re-signed with New Orleans in March for the 2010-11 season -- Leckey plans to work on his classes in the offseason, chipping away at his bachelor's degree in hotel and restaurant management bit by bit. And when his football career is behind him, he intends to put his education to work. His next dream includes getting some experience in the restaurant industry before striking out on his own.

"I'd like to open a Mexican restaurant in Phoenix, Kansas City or Manhattan. I'm half Mexican and my aunts used to make tamales and tortillas by hand. So I grew up around that, and eating was always a big thing at our family get-togethers," he said.

Whether his second career brings him back to Kansas or not, one thing is for certain. Although he's getting his degree from a distance, Leckey said he will make his way to Manhattan when it's time for graduation. And, he already knows exactly where that diploma will go.

"My wife has an accounting and finance degree from K-State, and I see her diploma up on the wall, and it just looks lonely," Leckey said. "I'm really glad I'm getting my degree through K-State. I wouldn't want to have it any other way."

More information about the Second Wind program and other available distance programs is available by contacting the K-State Division of Continuing Education at 1-800-622-2578 or online at http://www.dce.k-state.edu.