Sheffield Head Coach and Chief Executive Mark Aston received an honorary degree for his services to sport from Sheffield Hallam University this week.
Aston led the Eagles to Championship glory in 2012, having been synonymous with the club since joining as a player back in 1985.
The former scrum half, who was Lance Todd Trophy winner when the Eagles won the Challenge Cup in 1998, paid tribute to the “massive relationship” between the club and the university, when collecting his degree.
In his speech Mark said, “I have to pinch myself that we did so well in the Grand Final, which put Sheffield back on the (rugby league) map.
“To get the honorary doctorate from Sheffield Hallam University is something very special to me and something I’m very proud of.
“This city has been a part of my life and we are proud our link and relationship with Sheffield Hallam University.”
As well as Howieson and Smith graduating from the University, fellow first team players Corey Hanson and Leigh Sanders enter their final year next year at the institution.
Eagles Community Manager Adam Hughes also graduated from Sheffield Hallam and Eagles Marketing Manager Liam Claffey will be graduating from the University tomorrow (Thursday 21 st November).
Aston added, “Our link shows that Sport and Education can work hand in hand and we want to continue to build and strengthen this link.”
“We want to fetch Super League back to Sheffield, back to the city of Sport and we want the people of Sheffield to be proud of our achievements and the way in which we work.”
“We’ve got the scholarships and the player pathways in place and my dream is for youngsters to have the opportunity to get educated at Sheffield Hallam whilst at the same time play full time, professional rugby league.”
Offering advice to graduates embarking on their careers, Mark said: “Hard work, determination, commitment is the way forward.”
“I think a lot of the people graduating today will have done that over the last three years. Don’t leave any stone unturned and be the best you can be.”
The honorary degree adds to Astons’ list of achievements in 2012 which includes the Rugby League Writers’ Merit Award for services to the game of Rugby League and the 2012 Championship Trophy for the Co-operative Championship Grand Final win against the much fancied Featherstone Rovers.
Mark celebrated with World Taekwondo Champion Sarah Stevenson MBE who also collected an honorary degree for her services to sport and students from the University’s Faculty of Health and Wellbeing at Sheffield City Hall.