Blair Holliday was at Pitt Community College's annual pinning ceremony to personally pin 25-year-old Chelsea Gibbons, as she graduated as a registered nurse.
The first time Gibbons saw Holliday was on July 4, 2012, when the Duke wide receiver appeared lifeless.
"They were pulling him up by his life jacket and he was just hanging there," Gibbons said.
Holliday was severely injured in a jet skiing accident when he collided with another teammate on Lake Tillery, near Charlotte.
Gibbons said she didn't see the collision, but heard it, and said her nursing instincts immediately kicked in.
"When he first got out of the water I checked for his pulse. It was really slow and then it started diminishing," Gibbons said.
When she could no longer feel a pulse, she began to give Holliday CPR, which ultimately saved his life.
Holliday doesn't remember much from that day, but said he is thankful everyday that Gibbons, who he calls his guardian angel, was there.
"It's crazy to realize. She was there at the right moment. It's just like a gift from God honestly," Holliday said.
Holliday suffered a traumatic brain injury, a broken jaw, and torn muscles in his shoulder. He is still undergoing speech and physical therapy at a center in Atlanta.
Holliday said he hoped he could show his gratitude by pinning Gibbons on her big day.
"It's just like she gave me so much with my life, and all I'm doing is pinning her for graduation -- she deserves more," Holliday said.
Gibbons said the two will always have a special bond.
"I feel blessed with this whole situation that I was able to help and he pulled through. It's pretty much the happiest ending I can think of," Gibbons said.
Holliday plans to get a tattoo of an angel on his arm with Gibbons' initials so that he will always be reminded of his guardian angel.