PARMA, Ohio-- He gave up a shot at the NFL draft to stay by his girlfriend's side while she battled cancer.
Tuesday afternoon, an Ashland University lineman and Valley Forge graduate was honored for his commitment both on and off the field.
Jamie Meder, 23, received a surprise standing ovation at his alma mater, where Valley Forge coaches and administrators retired Meder's high school football jersey -- a first for the school.
"It's our chance to give back to him," said head football coach Jamie Vanek, who has a personal connection to Meder.
"His father coached me, and I've known Jamie since he was about four years old," Vanek said. "We can talk for days about every All-American title he's ever had, every record he's ever set, but he's a difference-maker. And he's a difference-maker on the field and in life."
"He's worked so hard for this. It's not come easy, that's for sure," said Meder's girlfriend of seven years, Lyndsey Koehler.
The two met in high school, and Koehler has stood by his side, just as he stood by hers when she was diagnosed with cancer two years ago.
At the time, Meder had a chance to train for the NFL draft, but instead, he put his schooling and Koehler first.
"He had practices and trainings and all that starting in the morning, and he would be home every night--drive to school every day--to come take care of me," Koehler said.
"It was a hard time," Meder told FOX 8 News reporter Autumn Ziemba on Tuesday. "But my mom had cancer before that, and I saw how my dad was a man during that, and it set the tone for me on what to do."
Meder has never looked back.
Koehler is now cancer-free, and with another draft starting Thursday, it's all about second chances.
Meder had the opportunity to attend NFL training prospect facilities this upcoming weekend, but once again put his schooling first. He has decided instead to attend his commencement ceremony at Ashland where he will graduate with a degree in criminal justice.
"He's gone and faced so much adversity, and to stay and graduate this Saturday on arguably the biggest weekend of his life, says everything," said Vanek.
"It's a very surreal feeling. I don't know how to describe it -- it's just amazing," Meder said. "It's awesome to have the community behind me and I'm glad to be part of this community."
Meder told FOX 8 he's eager to get a phone call from the NFL this weekend, but when it comes to team preference his reply was simple, with a smile.
"I just want to play football."