Arthur Ray Jr. was in class Thursday when the news he had waited years for finally arrived.
The NCAA had granted a waiver to remove the medical disqualification tag from Ray, and the Michigan State offensive lineman who battled leg cancer finally could practice with the team. He'll start counting against the team's scholarship limit, and no player in the country will relish the opportunity more than him.
Ray went through his first practice as a Spartan on Thursday afternoon.
"It was the greatest feeling in the world," Ray said in comments released through Michigan State on Thursday night. "It felt so good because it just represents so much now. I just feel like I have to represent everybody that's still dealing with bad things, like chemo. I still remember some of my guys that are still in the hospital."
Upon hearing the news from coach Mark Dantonio, Ray "cried tears of joy."
Ray is cancer free after a rough stretch in 2007-08. He had targeted this spring for his return, and he went through individual drills Thursday.
Dantonio told local reporters that Ray won't scrimmage this spring but will gradually work toward full participation.
"You know, when you want something bad enough, there's a greater chance of you getting it done," Dantonio said. "I think it's an example to a lot of people that are going through a lot of tough times in their life, that if they can just persevere, good things can happen for them. Because this guy, he's had four, five, six operations. He was on crutches for two years. You know, there was a lot of doubt whether he was gonna be able to walk again, let alone play football."
Quarterback Kirk Cousins shared his reaction when Ray returned to the practice field.
"At first when I saw the No. 73 and the helmet and the knee braces on him, I didn't know who it was at first. I had to look closer and it was Arthur. So it was strange, but it was awesome to see him out there. It's a testament to who he is, his family. And what he's battled through has been more than what you'd ask any 18-year-old to deal with."
As the Lansing State Journal's Joe Rexrode points out, Ray probably will redshirt this coming season, have a chance to play in 2012 and apply for a sixth year of eligibility -- the NCAA would be heartless not to grant one -- in 2013.
Ray's incredible story will be complete if and when he plays a game for Michigan State. But Thursday was a huge moment for the Spartans' offensive lineman.
"I'm using spring ball to get my feet back underneath me," Ray said. "I went out there today and did a few drills, a little bit of hitting. It felt great. I'm not that far off, I just have to keep working."
After what Ray has been through, you know he will.