Ben Lippen alumnus Samkon Gado’s path to a medical degree has been far from typical. On Friday at First Baptist Church, Gado will share with the 91 students of Ben Lippen’s graduating class the lessons he learned on his journey from Nigeria to the NFL to medical school.
Gado, who lives in Columbia, said he is honored to deliver the commencement address, a first for him.
“I just want to communicate that there’s a better way. As they leave, they have one of two paths they can go down. One path, the best that can come out of it is temporal success, and one leads to eternal success,” said Gado, who has just finished his third year at Medical University of South Carolina.
“I want to do the best that I can from my limited experience to encourage them to pursue eternal success,” he said.
Ben Lippen headmaster Chip Jones said the graduating class voted for Gado to deliver their commencement address.
“Our students are well aware of Sam and his career and his legacy here. Somebody like Sam, who is a successful graduate, they have an immediate respect for him,” Jones said.
Gado moved with his family from his native Nigeria to Columbia in 1991, and attended Ben Lippen from fifth grade. He was a standout running back for the Falcons in high school before earning a scholarship to Liberty.
His NFL career began in 2005, when he made the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad as an undrafted free agent. He received the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month honor in November of that year, and twice was chosen rookie of the week.
He went on to play with Green Bay, Houston, Miami and St. Louis before ending his career in Tennessee in 2010.
But Gado always had kept his eye on his ultimate goal of practicing medicine. At Liberty, Gado took pre-medicine courses and earned his degree in health promotions. He completed an internship at a local hospital while he was in Green Bay. He began pursuing his medical degree at MUSC in 2011.
“Nothing that I have accomplished has been due to my own efforts,” he said. “There are plenty of people that work hard and are determined that haven’t gotten the successes that I have been given.
“I certainly, on my talents alone, didn’t deserve to play in the NFL. And I’m not the smartest guy, to get accepted into medical school. God just opened those doors because it’s what He would have for me,” Gado said.
With his commencement address, Gado hopes to inspire his newest fellow alumni.
“I want them to know that they don’t have to have some extraordinary talent , they don’t have to be anybody special to be able to make a significant influence in this world. Whatever God has given you, large or small, God is able to make much of that,” said Gado, who plans to become an ear, nose and throat specialist and practice medicine in Nigeria.