As a player in the National Football League, your everyday job is physically taxing. For Tampa Bay Buccaneer Garrett Gilkey, his mind is also getting an intense workout – in the classroom.

Gilkey, who did his undergraduate work at Chadron State College in Nebraska, began his pursuit of a Master of Engineering in Construction Engineering this offseason through the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB). For the 6’6”, 320 pound guard, the reason is simple.

“I love construction, I want to be a high-end home builder.” Gilkey stated via email earlier this week. “This degree is a perfect platform to use in that industry.”

According to UAB’s Construction Engineering department, the degree will allow Gilkey to understand required and essential elements of the business, legal, and technical issues that may arise and help him assume more responsibility with greater compensation in the field.

Since he was a child in Sandwich, Illinois, Gilkey has been studious and enjoyed school. That has not changed, although his free time to study is much more limited. Luckily, he has teammates who stand behind his desire to set himself up for life after football.

“The team is very supportive,” said Gilkey. “Duke Preston and Shelton Quarles are huge advocates of me pursuing my education for post-football endeavors and in helping me establish myself in building a community here in Tampa. I'm more than blessed to have them as support.”

Last Fall, in Tampa Bay’s final preseason game, Gilkey suffered a knee injury that placed him on the injured reserve and caused him to miss the entire 2015 season. The year before, Gilkey played in all 16 games for the Buccaneers, starting one at center. This season, he hopes to be back and ready to go, despite the challenges of balancing school and football.

“Balancing school and training is not easy. I do it, and I'm doing it well, but I have to remember that my focus needs to primarily be on football. Having a passion for other professions need to be conservatively managed otherwise it's easy to lose focus. I'm very passionate about both football and construction. Construction can always wait but football is now.”