After a long and grueling rookie season that ended in the Super Bowl following a long and grueling final season at the University of Georgia that ended with a National Championship, Eagles linebacker Nakobe Dean wanted to relax. So, he enrolled at Georgia and returned to Athens for two classes: Heat Transfer and Fluid Mechanics.
"Mathematical stuff. It was just six hours of classes. I had to catch up some because the classes started in January and we didn't finish the season until February 12, but I was back in the classroom the following Monday," Dean said. "They were hard classes. The concept was easy, but doing the math could take a long time. At times there were pages and pages of work on one problem, but I had fun with it, actually.
"They didn't offer the classes online, which would have been ideal. But I made it. I passed the classes – I don't know the exact grade, but I passed it at a high-enough level to get the credits – and I had received the credits and I'm still chipping away at my degree. I'm going to get it. It's a goal of mine and I'm going to get there – I'm just 26 hours away. Little by little, I'm going to get it."
See, the way Dean figured, "it was nothing" to take six hours of credits when he was usually taking 16 hours per semester and, besides, it was the kind of break he needed.
"It didn't feel like much to me," said Dean, who maintained a 3.55 GPA in the mechanical engineering program at Georgia when he was a full-time student. "It felt like that was my break from football. I cannot just lay around and watch TV. I don't even have a game system. I'm always moving. I'm always working."
That's the Nakobe Dean Way, and it serves him well. He's in his second season with the Eagles and he has big plans ahead – on and off the field. Dean's football action last year happened mostly on special teams – he was a core member and had seven tackles – while playing 35 snaps on defense. This season, Dean figures to have a chance to contribute much more on defense in the revamped linebacker lineup. How that plays out is to be determined, but you can understand that Dean is thinking big.
He puts in the work, and along with that impeccable preparation comes limitless confidence.
"Opportunities are endless. Anything that is available for me to do, I'm trying to be the best to ever do it," he said. "I don't strive to just be a player. I don't strive to just be an extra in this movie. I strive to be the main character. I feel like you should always strive to be the best, the best version of yourself. I feel like if you go in throughout the season and throughout my career and I'm the best version of myself, the rest will take care of itself.
"Defense is defense. Ball is ball. The good thing that (Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai) is doing is asking us what we like and what we don't like. He's working with the guys on the team to get that feedback. Of course there are things that are going to happen regardless, but he values our feedback. It's been great so far."
Dean has learned a lot in a year. He's always been a star because he's got natural gifts, an incredible work ethic and amazing drive and football intelligence. There is more than all of that at the NFL, and those little things – "attention to detail, that's the biggest difference between college and the NFL," he said – separate the good ones and the great ones.
The goal for Dean is to be a great one. His best version. The guy who is back in a college classroom eight days after playing in a Super Bowl and taking mind-bending classes that require precision and perfection – an attention to detail in itself, mind you – to solve the equation.
There is no sitting around waiting for the world to come to Nakobe Dean. He is out there reaching for the stars.
"That's the way I am. That's my approach," Dean said. "Last year, I grew so much as a player, as a man, and now it's time to take it to another level and that's what I intend to do."