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Former University of Akron football player wins Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film

Matthew A. Cherry, a former All-MAC wide receiver, won for his film 'Hair Love.'

LOS ANGELES — From MAC football star to...Oscar winner? You heard that right!

Former Akron wide receiver Matthew A. Cherry took home the Academy Award for Best Animated Short on Sunday night for his production Hair Love. It is the first such award for Cherry, who both wrote and co-directed the piece.

"Hair Love was done because we want to see more representation in animation" Cherry said on stage while holding the trophy. "We wanted to normalize black hair."

Hair Love tells the story of an African-American father who struggles to style his daughter's hair in the absence of her mother. In connection with the theme of the film, Cherry also used his victory to shed a light on hair discrimination, and cited the example of DeAndre Arnold. The Texas teen was suspended from school for his dreadlocks, and ended up going to the Oscars as Cherry's special guest.

"There's a very important issue out there, it's the CROWN Act, and if we can help to get this passed in all 50 states it will help [stop] stories like DeAndre...from happening," Cherry told the audience.

Cherry, who in an interview with 3News' Will Ujek this past week cited basketball legend and fellow Oscar winner Kobe Bryant as an influence, also dedicated his win to the "Black Mamba." Bryant, his daughter, and seven others died in a helicopter crash two weeks ago today.

"May we all have a second act as great as his was," Cherry said.

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A native of Chicago, Cherry played for the Zips for three seasons and earned All-MAC honors his senior year. He graduated with a degree in media, then spent time on various NFL practice squads before retiring from football to begin his film career.

Credit: Charlie Neibergall/AP
Matthew A. Cherry during his playing days at Akron.

"Great memories, you know, great people," Cherry told Ujek of his time in Summit County. "Swenson’s...I got a taste for a Galley Boy."

You can watch Hair Love in it's entirety in the player below:

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