While 25-year-old Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is fulfilling his childhood dream—not only playing in the National Football League, but making headlines as an All-Rookie, Pro-Bowler, and top 100 NFL player for the last two years—he’s also been working towards another of his goals.
That is, getting his bachelor’s degree.
“I remember Nick Saban coming to my house when I was in 11th grade,” Clinton-Dix, now a safety for the Green Bay Packers, said. “I had goals I wanted to accomplish, and getting my degree was definitely one. He looked me right in my eyes at my mom’s house and promised me that I would get my degree—that if football didn’t work out I would definitely have my degree to fall back on.
“It’s something no one can take away from me once football is done.”
After entering the NFL draft in 2014 after his junior year of college, with two college football national championships under his belt, Clinton-Dix maintained his enrollment at UA and continued taking classes at UA. He even returned to campus the past two springs. And last summer, the NFL superstar completed an internship at the Brown County Courthouse in Green Bay, Wisconsin, as part of his degree in criminal justice. While there, he spent several days shadowing different members of the judicial system, including the district attorney, which he said opened his eyes to how important the system is.
“It’s not really about one individual,” he said. “It’s about serving the community and making the world a better environment. It’s really eye-opening to see the decisions that judges have to make based on what’s in front of them.”
Clinton-Dix was also struck by his time sitting in on treatment courts for heroine, alcohol, and other drugs.
“The people who came in there throughout the week, they really have mental health issues,” he said. “I noticed that’s the main problem we have with society today: no one wants to talk about mental health, or no one pays it any attention, and it gets swept under the rug. Sitting in on the treatment courts opened my eyes to what’s really going on in the world.”
While one childhood dream—that of being a police officer and fighting the bad guys like they do in Walker, Texas Ranger—is on hold, another, being part of the NFL, is just beginning.
“The only reason I can believe I’m here is because I really worked my ass off to get where I’m at now,” he said. “But it’s a blessing—to dream about something as a kid and fulfill your dream is overwhelming and amazing. It’s crazy, honestly.”
Reflecting on his time at UA, two things stand out. The first was during his freshman year at football practice when the Orlando-native remembers being “cold as hell.”
“Coach Terry Jones asked me, ‘What’s going to happen when Green Bay drafts you?’ and I told him, ‘I’m not going to Green Bay,’” he said of the town known for its blustery winters. “When I got drafted by Green Bay, what he said was the first thing I thought of.”
Clinton-Dix also remembers UA preparing for life.
“It’s so easy to talk about Nick Saban because he was my coach,” Clinton-Dix said. “But he was also my teacher. He taught me about the little things: It was about doing the little things right. It was about treating everybody with respect on campus whether that was the garbage man or your math teacher. It was about being on time.
“UA really turned me into a young man.”
What does he see himself doing after football?
“The only thing that’s on the horizon for me is impacting the youth and giving back,” he said. “That’s going to be my purpose when I’m done with football.
“Nick Saban always told me, ‘Nobody cares how good of a football player you are. They care about how you were as a human being. How was your heart? How were you? What do people say when they meet you?’ If I could change one kid’s life and turn it around after I’m done with football, my life here on earth is done. I’m complete.”