Watch NFL Player Turned Astronaut Leland Melvin Share His Inspiring Story

In 2009, NASA astronaut Leland Melvin arrived at NASA Johnson Space Center for his “photo day” before traveling to the International Space Station aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis as a member of STS-129. Astronauts are allowed to bring their human family members to their photo day, but Melvin had to sneak his four-legged family members, rescue dogs Jake and Scout, into the photo session. And it was totally worth it. Just as the NASA photographer was about to snap the photo, the dogs jumped on Melvin and an internet legend was born:

But being the subject of the greatest NASA astronaut portrait of all time isn’t the most interesting thing about Leland Melvin. Watch the video below from AARP where Melvin shares his triumphant story, including his short stint in the NFL before a hamstring injury led him to follow his “backup plan” of attending graduate school — a course that ultimately led to a career with NASA that included two space shuttle missions.

“No matter what gifts that you’ve been blessed to have, lifelong learning and reinvention can also take the gifts that you have, [and] enhance them in a way that you can share them with the next generation of explorers.”