Most hockey players who leave college early for the NHL never look back, as they are ready to focus on hockey and nothing else for the next couple of decades of their life. Some players are the rare exception, however, like former Michigan Wolverine and current LA King Jack Johnson.â†µ
Johnson left Michigan in 2007 after the conclusion of his sophomore season with Michigan. Although he originally intended to go to U-M for four years to earn his degree, the chance to jump to the NHL early was too good, so he left. There's no doubt Johnson made a good decision considering how successful he has been in his short pro hockey career, helping the Kings get to the playoffs this past season and winning a silver medal with Team USA at the Olympics.â†µ
Although his hockey career is on the rise, Johnson isn't forgetting about his degree, which had two years of work to go when he left U-M. While it would be easy to just move on to hockey and not worry about the degree at all, Johnson has been coming back to Ann Arbor each summer to take classes and work towards graduating. On top of that, he takes online classes during the NHL season, balancing a full-time sports career and education.â†µ
"I come from a family where everyone has a degree, and I don't want to be the black sheep at the dinner table," Johnson said. "My 12-year-old brother gives me a hard time and he says he's going to get one before I do, and so I've got pressure.â†µ
"But I'm very proud of being a Michigan athlete, a Michigan student and it's always something I'll have in my pocket. It's a priceless thing to have."â†µ
Johnson gave all Michigan hockey fans many great memories during his two years in Ann Arbor, but he's right that a degree is a priceless thing to have. The fact that he is continuing to work towards it despite already having a successful career in the NHL is pretty remarkable, but it just adds to the lore of JMFJ, as he was affectionately called in Ann Arbor.