Amano takes care of unfinished business

Friday, May 12, 2006

Despite moving on to the NFL, the former Southeast offensive lineman never stopped pursuing his degree.

Former Southeast Missouri State All-American Eugene Amano has always taken football seriously, which led to his current NFL career.

But Amano has also always put plenty of focus on academics -- and proof of that will come Saturday when he receives his diploma.

Amano, an offensive lineman who left Southeast after the 2003 football season, will take part in Southeast's commencement at the Show Me Center Saturday.

"I'm really excited," Amano said. "It took me a little longer than I thought, but I finally got it done."

Amano, of course, has a pretty good excuse for perhaps taking a bit longer to graduate than many college students.

Following his senior season at Southeast in the fall of 2003, Amano left the university to concentrate on his football career. He was selected in the spring 2004 NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans in the seventh round, made the Titans' roster and soon will be entering his third season with the team.

But Amano, a native of San Diego, never forgot about academics.

"I always took that seriously," Amano said. "I was there to be a student first. Football is not guaranteed."

Besides, Amano added, "My parents always put the pressure on me to go back. I didn't want to let them down."

A degree in criminal justice

Amano, a criminal justice major, was able to fulfill his requirements for a diploma -- he needed 27 more hours when he left Southeast -- largely through taking online courses in his football offseasons.

He has also done some independent study work, and he is currently performing an internship with the Franklin Police Department, near Nashville, Tenn.

"That's the last requirement for my degree, and it's been a pretty neat experience," Amano said. "I'm working with detectives on a drug task force. We've done a bunch of busts, undercover drug buys, things like that.

"I want to keep my options open. Once I'm done playing football, I could see myself doing something like that."

Linda Keena, an assistant criminal justice professor at Southeast, was Amano's academic advisor while he was in school, and she has also helped him line up his academic schedule since he's been in the NFL.

Keena said Amano should be lauded for his academic persistence -- not that it surprised her.

"Eugene is very determined," Keena said. "I can remember when he came to Southeast, and I met with him. He said he was not here just to play football, he was here to be a student.

"He has set a very good example for all student-athletes. I don't know what the odds are of someone leaving school needing that many hours and finishing up, especially when you factor in his obligations to the NFL."

Regarding his NFL career, Amano is pleased so far. Mainly because of injuries, he started several games as a rookie in 2004. Last season, he did not have any starts, but he saw action in every game as a backup at three line positions. He's hoping to challenge for a starting spot this year.

"I had some good experiences my first two years, but hopefully I can get that starting center job this year," he said.

Amano has spent the past several months in the Titans' offseason conditioning program, and he recently participated in two mini-camps. The entire team will gather for the first time for a mini-camp next week, where Amano will get his first look at touted No. 1 draft pick Vince Young.

"That's going to be exciting, to see what Vince Young can do," Amano said. "There's been a lot of hype."

Saturday, Amano will experience some hype of a different kind as he receives his diploma in front of his parents, who will make the trip from San Diego.

Keena said Southeast president Dr. Ken Dobbins generally showcases a few unique graduates as he addresses the gathering during each commencement. Keena said Dobbins plans to include Amano this year.

"With my parents there and everything, it'll be pretty cool," Amano said.

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