Former NFL wide receiver Matthew A. Cherry was among the winners at Sunday night’s Academy Awards. Cherry, who played his college ball at Akron and had opportunities with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers, and Baltimore Ravens until giving up football in 2007, won Best Animated Short for his film, Hair Love.

Hair Love began as a Kickstarter project in 2017 and at that time raised the most money for a short film on the crowdfunding platform. The film is about an African American child who wants to style her hair for a special occasion, but doing so is beyond her and her father’s skills.

Cherry is now the second former professional athlete to win in the Oscars’ Best Animated Short category joining Kobe Bryant, who won for his film, Dear Basketball, in 2018. In his acceptance speech, Cherry dedicated his win to Bryant saying, “May we all have a second act in life as great as his was.”

(Cherry kept his remarks short due to the Oscars telecast’s time concerns, in addition to Hair Love‘s producer, Karen Rupert Toliver, also giving a speech.)

The film is available to view online. You can watch the seven-minute short below:

Hair Love was certainly a deserving winner among the five Best Animated Short nominees. The story of Zuri and her hair is told largely through body movements and facial expressions. The bright colors and energy of the animation make up for the lack of words, which really aren’t necessary to convey the characters’ feelings and relationships with one another.

Kelley L. Carter wrote plenty more about Cherry’s burgeoning Hollywood career following his NFL aspirations for The Undefeated last year. A former second-team all-MAC honoree, a shoulder injury ended his pro football career and a financial settlement with the Ravens helped fund a move to Los Angeles and a start in filmmaking.

Following stints working on Girlfriends, The Game, and Heroes, Cherry directed several music videos that boosted his résumé and led to directing opportunities on a handful of TV shows. From there, he became an executive at Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions, getting producer credits on films like BlacKkKlansman and TV series The Last O.G.

Now with an Academy Award, it’s likely that movie and TV fans will be seeing a lot more from Cherry in the future.

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and Asheville's Mountain XPress. He's written for Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.