Filmmakers Matthew Cherry (left) and Karen Rupert Tolliver thank the Academy after their production “Hair Love” won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Sunday night.

By Ron Wynn

For the second time in three years, a former pro athlete has won an Oscar, though this time he comes from the world of football Former NFL wide receiver Matthew Cherry won the Oscar for best animated short film Sunday night, and took time to remember the late Kobe Bryant, who won an Oscar two years ago. Cherry also wrote the story about a Black father who’s trying to do his daughter’s hair for the very first time.

The film is seven minutes long, and was financed through a Kickstarter campaign. “’Hair Love’ was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation, and because we wanted to normalize black hair,” Cherry said in accepting the award at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.”This award is dedicated to Kobe Bryant. May we all have a second act as great as his was,” Cherry added during his acceptance speech. He was one of the rare either Black or performers/creative people of color who won Oscars.

In terms of his actual NFL career, Cherry didn’t really ever make much impact. At one time or other he was on the rosters of three teams, but never appeared in a game. Those clubs were the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens. He retired from professional football in 2007 to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.

However the 36-year-old was more successful as a college player. He played at Akron from 2000-03. His best season was 2003, when he had 66 receptions and was voted second-team all-Mid-American Conference.

Cherry added he has ideas for several other projects, and feels there are ample opportunities in animation to explore a variety of subjects.