Leland Melvin Went From Football Star To Inspirational NASA Astronaut

Brilliance | Dec. 14, 2017

Leland Melvin took a uniquely adorable photo for his official NASA portrait—he snuck his two dogs into the studio with him. Though this image has made its rounds on the internet, Melvin has much more to offer than his heartwarming headshot. His story is a truly inspirational one.

As a high schooler, Melvin was on course for a career as a professional athlete. In 1988, he was drafted by the Detroit Lions, and his dreams of playing pro football were at last within his reach. But those dreams came crashing down after a hamstring injury. He went on to receive his Master of Science in Materials Science Engineering from the University of Virginia in 1991. Soon after, he wound up at NASA and became an astronaut—quite the pivot from a path toward NFL fame. Melvin's professional struggles didn't end with that hamstring, though. While training underwater at NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, a mishap left Melvin deaf. He has since partially recovered, and now travels the world as an inspirational speaker for kids. Hear from Melvin in the video below.

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