Deion Roberson could have gone back home and just give in to feeling sorry for himself, but attending NC State has altered his life in numerous different ways.
Roberson injured his ankle during the second play of the first game of his senior year at Tucker (Ga.) High in 2008. Roberson underwent surgery but struggled with his rehabilitation, and he never got to play football ever again and became a medical redshirt after signing with NC State in the class of 2009. He was able to keep his scholarship and he used it wisely.
The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Roberson graduated with a degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism management with a concentration in programming at NC State, giving himself and his loved ones a wonderful gift for the holiday season.
"That was a pretty tough moment and I didn't understand it at that point in time," said Roberson, 24. "My ankle feels a whole lot better than when I first came to NC State. I could hardly walk around campus back then.
"Now, I don't limp as much as I did. It was great to walk across the stage because when I graduated in high school, I had to use crutches. That was a big thing for me."
Roberson doesn't have to think long on how lucky he is to have remained at NC State following the difficult news he wasn't going to be playing football anymore for the Wolfpack.
"I met some great people in my four years at NC State," Roberson said. "I met my beautiful wife in 2010. She helped me develop a lot more and gave me a good mindset. I came to NC State to play football, and then I couldn't do it anymore. I wanted to help my team."
Roberson and his wife, Symphony, got married last May.
Roberson got to spend time with some of his past teammates - 12 other current or former players earned their degrees - leading up to winter graduation ceremonies.
"It felt good because I came in with Brian Slay, A.J. Ferguson and Rashard Smith," Roberson said. "Then I got to go out with them. We all came in and stuck with our commitment to NC State. It went by fast."
Roberson has remained friends to this day with some of his former classmates or recruiting classmates over the years.
"Guys like D.J. Green, Jarvis Byrd, Rashard Smith, Art Norman, a whole bunch of people I had met at NC State, I stayed in touch," Roberson said. "Earl Wolff, Nate Irving and C.J. Wilson, all those guys kept me close and updated me on things that were happening on the team.
"It never got awkward and it felt good. I wanted to practice with them and lift weights with them, but I just couldn't due to my injury."
Roberson never has given up his desire to play football or certain sports in general, but his ankle is a daily reminder of how things have taken a different turn for him. He enjoys lifting weights and will sometimes play basketball, but sometimes it will get stiff and swell up.
Roberson also was thankful of former NC State head coach Tom O'Brien and ex-defensive line coach Keith Willis Sr. for following his academic career and making sure he remained on track. At first, he thought the coaches simply didn't want him, but then realized over time that they were looking out for his best long-term interests.
"They really helped me a lot in my development and helping me graduate," Roberson said. "They keep checking in on me to see how I was doing in school. They wanted me to stay focus and did a lot. They looked out for my future.
"I know the training staff has done everything they could for me, and I appreciate that."
Roberson never dreamed his football career was going to come to a halt while at NC State. The Wolfpack signed Roberson hoping to get a steal, and elected to grayshirt him by having him enroll in Jan. 2010. When fall camp opened in Aug. 2010, it was clear that his ankle never healed properly.
"Yeah, it's a situation where it could have been avoided but because he didn't have the proper situation at home to rehab the proper way," O'Brien said at the time. "He had to have two operations and just was unable to come back right now from those two surgeries he had to have."
Roberson tried to remain a part of the Wolfpack mix following his medical redshirt.
"I had my [academic] schedule change because they were practicing in the morning," Roberson said. "I really couldn't do that with the team [attend and watch]. I had everything the players on the football team had except for going to meetings and practice, and sometimes lifting weights and travel."
Roberson said being patient and not get frustrated helped give him the proper perspective over the last few years. He did enjoy supporting his teammates and watched them play, whether in person, television or online.
"My freshman and sophomore years, I went to the games, but then it got tough and I started watching it from home," Roberson said. "I'd just watch them in my apartment."
Roberson isn't sure what his next step in the future is. He has pondered graduate school and also has thought about going into coaching.
"I'm part time while working at the city of Raleigh," Roberson said. "I'm at the teen center, and I'm trying to be a good leader and help them the best way I can."