Gary Tinsley was awarded a degree posthumously by the University of Minnesota on Thursday.
It's been exactly 34 days since Tinsley, 22, died of an enlarged heart on April 6 in his dorm room at Roy Wilkins Hall.
Tinsley was a starting linebacker for the Gophers football team and had been training for the NFL in the days leading up to his death.
"I can hear him now, saying, When you get that degree, dance for me,'" said Tinsley's mom, Ronda Evans. "It's hard, but I'm gong to take it."
Evans and Gary Tinsley Sr. accepted the degree on their son's behalf Thursday.
"It is always difficult to lose a member of the university family," University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler said after Tinsley's death. "Gary was close to graduating from the University's College of Education and Human Development with a major in business and marketing education. In addition, he was an important part of Gopher athletics who was engaged in public service. Our thoughts are with Gary's family and everyone on campus who knew him."
Gary Tinsley was majoring in business and marketing at the university.
Tinsley is originally from Jacksonville, Fla., and is the first from either side of his family to earn a college degree.
"All we thought about was high school. College was a bonus for him. That was like another challenge for him," said Gary Tinsley Sr.
Jean Quam, dean of the College of Education and Human Development, presented Tinsley's parents with his diploma.
"Gary embodied what I hope to see every time a student athlete walks through our doors," Quam said. "His dreams were big, his talents were incomprehensible, and he always thanked the people who worked with him along the way."
Tinsley's long time girlfriend from Florida also traveled to the Mariucci Arena to cheer for him.
Gakahra Whitaker said, "He would have been the last one out there dancing, doing something crazy walking down the stage. He just wanted to make his mom proud and his dad proud."