CHICAGO (WLS) -- Former NFL player and Chicago native Matthew A. Cherry shared the Academy Awards red carpet with a Texas teenager who was told to get rid of his dreadlocks or risk missing graduation.
DeAndre Arnold proudly wore his dreads to the Oscars, and Cherry won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short for his film "Hair Love" Sunday night. The movie tells the endearing story of an African American dad trying to style his little girl's hair.
RELATED: Former NFL player Matthew A. Cherry behind Oscar-nominated short film 'Hair Love'
Cherry was a promising athlete growing up on the Northwest Side, eventually playing in the NFL, but he quit football and moved to Hollywood. Six years ago he declared he would win an Oscar, and now he's done just that.
Cherry and Karen Rupter Toliver got a global spotlight for a message of diversity and tolerance.
"'Hair Love' was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation," Cherry said in his acceptance speech. "We wanted to normalize black hair."
He also dedicated his award to Kobe Bryant in his acceptance speech saying, "may we all have a second act as great as his was."
"Kobe was the first former athlete to be nominated for an Oscar and win one, and I was the second to be nominated, so he tweeted 'Let's go,' and we were really looking forward to meeting him," Cherry said on Live with Kelly and Ryan. "It's such a tragedy, what happened."
Cherry partied all night but Monday he was back at work, directing an episode of ABC's "Mixed-ish." He brought his Oscar along to adorn the set.
He said he wants all his work to have depth of meaning coming from daily events.
"When you see a story like DeAndre Arnold's the young gentleman that was the wrestler that had to cut his locks before the match, when something like this comes about where you can, like, actually have the potential to create a real change and stop these stories from happening, it was our pleasure to get a part of it," he said. "I'm so glad we were able to shout that out from the stage, because I think that's important."
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"To be here doing something like this about black hair, black families, it's just literally a dream," he added. "I never would have thought in a million years we'd win an Oscar for something like this, it's crazy."
Time ran out on stage, but Matthew wanted to thank his parents, Kenneth and Diana, who knows are watching over him.
You can meet Matthew Cherry in Chicago on Feb. 20 at a Black History event at Macy's on State Street.
Matthew A. Cherry, Chicago native and former NFL player, reflects on Oscars win for 'Hair Love' animated short