Neal Cotts was on track to graduate when Major League Baseball came calling during the 2001 draft, where the Oakland Athletics selected him the second round with the 69th overall pick. Cotts, who was inducted into the Percy Family Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015, proved his worth throughout his 10-year Major League career. Cotts won a World Series with the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Last May, nearly two decades after he left for the big leagues, Cotts officially added Illinois State graduate to his World Series champion resume. After taking online classes for several years, he earned his diploma after completing an internship last spring. Cotts currently works as an instructor at a baseball facility in Chicago.

“Ultimately, there was always a part of me that wanted to complete my journey here at ISU. I’m embedded here from my time playing baseball and I cherish my relationship with ISU Athletics,” Cotts said. “Some of my fondest memories and friends were made at ISU. It holds more meaning for me to have a degree from the place where it all started. ISU helped me mature a lot both on and off the field and the experiences gained in Normal helped me have the type of career I wanted.”