Former University of Akron and NFL wide receiver Matthew Cherry became the second former professional athlete in history to receive an Oscar nomination with his bid for the animated short “Hair Love.”
Cherry was a star at the University of Akron, where he still holds the school record for most yards on punt returns in a season, with 305 in 2003. He played alongside former Browns’ quarterback Charlie Frye on the Zips.
After about three seasons in the NFL playing for the Panthers, Bengals, Jaguars and Ravens, Cherry left the league and began his career in media, which he obtained a degree in from Akron.
Cherry has had a successful career in media, directing music videos and writing, directing and producing multiple films and television shows, including “BlacKkKlansman,” “Whiskey Cavalier,” “The Last O.G.,” and “Black-ish,” but his biggest accomplishment in media to date is now his Oscar nomination for best animated short film.
In 2017, Cherry started a Kickstarter campaign to help fund his animated short “Hair Love.” The campaign surpassed its initial goal of $75,000 and ended up raising more than $300,000, the most money ever raised on the platform for a short film project, according to Kickstarter.
Cherry wrote and directed the short, with co-director Bruce Smith, the creator and executive producer of “The Proud Family” known for his animation work in “Tarzan” “The Emperor’s New Groove,” and “Princess and the Frog.”
Animator Everett Downing Jr., known for his work in “Ice Age,” “WALL-E,” “Up” and “Toy Story 3,” was also a co-director on the short film. Actress Issa Rae voiced the film and was one of the announcers of the Oscar nominations Monday morning.
“Hair Love” is about a black father who is learning how to do his daughter’s hair for the first time. The short is an emotional work that lasts around seven minutes.
Watch “Hair Love” below:
Cherry will find out if he joins Kobe Bryant as the second former professional athlete to win an Oscar at the award ceremony next month.
The Oscars will air live right here on News 5 on Sunday, Feb. 9 at 8 p.m.