(CBS) — Becoming an astronaut certainly qualifies you to be invited back by your alma mater to be the graduation speaker.

After spending six months in space, Mike Hopkins plans on delivering a commencement address that is us truly out of this world.

CBS 2’s Ryan Baker reports.

While working aboard the International Space Station, Hopkins realized that he’d literally come a long way since being a walk-on football player at the University of Illinois.

“You can dream about it, you can think about it, but you don’t really know until you get there,” he says. “When you see the earth from 260 miles up, it just takes your breath away. It’s amazing.”

The 1991 Illini team captain will share some of those stratospheric experiences, when he delivers the commencement address to the class of 2014 on the very same Memorial Stadium field where he played.

“You learn that it just takes a lot of hard work. You can’t ever give up, it takes one more lick, so just keep trying. It took me four tries before NASA picked me as an astronaut,” Hopkins says.

Hopkins says his return to earth back in March is a “touchdown” that he’ll never forget. He actually did not participate in his own U of I graduation in 1991, because he drove straight to Stanford to get his master’s in aerospace engineering.