When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced their shortlists for the upcoming Academy Award Ceremony on Monday morning, it might have been easy to look past the nominations for “best animated short film”.
But for Akron football fans, the name listed alongside Hair Love was a familiar one: former Akron Zips wide receiver Matt Cherry.
Cherry (who goes by Matthew A. Cherry in Hollywood circles,) has been making a name for himself in film circles since 2007, when he retired from the National Football League and declined opportunities to play in the Canadian Football League to pursue a career in film-making.
Hair Love, a short film about a single father bonding with his daughter by learning how to do her hair, is Cherry’s first Academy Award nomination as a director, placing him alongside Kobe Bryant as the only professional athletes to ever gain an Oscar nomination for a film they produced or directed.
Bryant won the Oscar for “best animated short film” for Dear Basketball, a short based on his retirement letter, in 2018.
Cherry’s films have been on the cutting-edge since he began directing and producing his own projects; he first gained mainstream fame for producing and directing 9 Rides, the first feature-length film to be made entirely with an iPhone 6s, a film which was met with critical intrigue.
Cherry also has listed credits in Black-ish (guest director), The Last O.G. (co-producer and guest director), Almost 30 (writer, editor, executive producer and director) and BlackKklansman (executive producer), and is on the staff of Jordan Peele’s famous Monkeypaw Productions studio.
More information about his journey can be read in this impressive profile by The Undefeated’s Kelley A. Carter.
As an Akron Zip, Cherry totalled 149 receptions for 1,997 yards and ten receiving touchdowns over three seasons. Cherry held the school record for most single-season punt return yards (305) at the time he graduated, and also returned three punts for touchdowns in his career. Cherry was an all-MAC second-team selection in 2003, his senior season.
Cherry graduated from the University of Akron with a bachelor’s degree in media from UA’s School of Communications.
The Academy Awards will be televised live on Sunday, February 9, at 8 p.m. Eastern time on ABC, with “Live on the Red Carpet” starting at 5:30 p.m. EST.