Kei'Trel Clark couldn't stop smiling. He couldn't stop laughing.
The cornerback was in the middle of reaching a milestone in his life on Monday while signing his first NFL contract. And he was was still giddy from walking at his college graduation on Saturday -- the first in his family to have earned a college degree.
"It's been a lot to get here," Clark said. "That's why I'm smiling and cheesin' so much. I'm so happy."
The sixth-round draft pick out of Louisville missed the (Arizona) Cardinals rookie minicamp over the weekend because of the ceremony.
When Clark went on his visits to potential teams before the draft -- including when he met with Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon -- he let them know his graduation date and that he wanted to be there. Gannon let Clark know that, despite it falling on the same weekend at rookie minicamp, that Clark would be fine if the Cardinals ended up taking him.
"Just like I've been playing football all my life I've been going to school all my life, and I felt (walking) was a must," said Clark, who got his degree in communications. "I didn't want to have to go back school. At the end of the day, we always say student-athlete first, so I've got to live that."
When the Cardinals drafted him, Clark made sure to remind Gannon of their agreement.
"He said, 'Coach, you said I didn't have to be there.' But he actually wanted to come and fly back (to Louisville) and fly back (to camp)," Gannon said. "I said 'Brother, listen here. that's important. We want all our guys to graduate. You need to do that.' He'll get submerged (with the vets later)."
Clark chuckled at the memory. He indeed was going to come in Thursday with the rookies, leave Friday afternoon and return Saturday after graduation. Clark's original flight to return to Arizona was canceled. But he was there Monday, signing his new deal and completing an emotional two-pack of life events.
It's not often that a family has more NFL players -- Clark's uncle Robert played wide receiver in the league -- than college graduates. But that's a big reason why walking across that Louisville stage was so important.
"When I was walking across, I felt like I had been drafted again," Clark said. "It was amazing. That draft feeling, I felt pretty numb when it happened, and that's how I felt when I was walking across the stage and my whole family was cheering me on."