If you follow me on twitter, you've probably seen me use the hashtag “#OnceAPupAlwaysAPup.” It’s probably obvious, but it’s Wofford related. Someone somewhere may have used it before, but after graduating from Wofford in 2015, I started using the hashtag to label my social media post that dealt with Wofford, Wofford Soccer, and/or my time there. There were plenty of hashtags that the school’s media department had in circulation already and each athletic team of course had their own saying or phrase, but the Men’s soccer team during my time decided to mixed things up a bit and instead of Terriers, or T-Dogs, we broke down huddles with “T-Puppies” or “T-Pups.” That explains the Pup. The rest of it is actually pretty simple. Wofford is small - one of the smallest Division 1 schools in the nation; roughly 1800 students. We may have been small, but we had a big heart. It’s corny, but like President Eisenhower once said, “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight - it's the size of the fight in the dog.” Wofford was small, our student body was small, we were the smaller dog in a big dog fight. It doesn’t matter what year you graduated, what team you played on, what greek organization you may have been a part of, if you were a Wofford Terrier, you were a part of a family - a family that would last forever.
Having the opportunity to pursue the thing I love most after college was a dream come true. Having the opportunity to pursue this dream in Charleston was another blessing in itself. I could write for days on the wonders of Charleston and why it’s so amazing but there’s been one part of this experience that has made my time here in the Holy City extra special. During my time at Wofford I felt as if 1 out of every 4 students was either from Charleston or had some tie to the low country. I can remember making handfuls of trips to Charleston during my 4 years. Of course we came down for soccer games, but I also remember coming down for handfuls of weekend getaways or night trips for athletic events or what have you. Charleston may have been 3 hours down I-26 from Spartanburg and subsequently the home of one of Wofford’s long time rivals, but Charleston, even during my college years, felt like my second home. Little did I know that Charleston would actually become my home.
The NCAA released an article earlier this year talking about the estimated probability of competing in professional athletics after competing in collegiate sports. The NCAA estimated that out of roughly 25,000 men’s soccer participants, roughly 80 players will go on to play professionally - that’s 1.4%. Probably obvious, but Wofford hasn't produce as many professional athletes as some of the other Division 1 schools. For the few of us Terriers that have had the opportunity to compete professionally, regardless of sport, there’s one thing we all have in common - our love for our school. We want to put Wofford on the map. We want the world to know who we are. I wouldn't be where I am today without Wofford, the Wofford family, and everything I learned during my time in Spartanburg. So when I play, part of me plays for Wofford. Not just for the school but for everyone that went to Wofford, every athlete that put on the olde gold and black, every Terrier that walked thru the gates - and there happened to be tons of them in Charleston.
There’s this one Terrier that I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know over the past season, well, technically future Terrier considering he’s still not a teenager, but with his parents both being Wofford alum, he was born into the family, at least for now, who has taught me more about myself than I taught him about soccer. For about 12 weeks this summer I, as well as handful of other Battery players, coached weekly soccer camps and clinics at our facilities for local youth soccer players. I was responsible for coaching 20 or so 8-10 year old boys and girls and one little guy in particular made an impact from day 1. He never complained, he was always excited for what was next, he wanted to learn, he wanted to get better. He loved soccer and it was as obvious as it was me quoting Eisenhower after talking about Wofford being the small dog in a big fight. This little dude showed up every week for 12 weeks more excited than I can explain. He reminded me of myself when I was younger. It was as if I was coaching a younger me and the best part about it, he was all about some Wofford Terriers.
This past Saturday we played Richmond at home and Luke was our honorary captain. Luke got the opportunity to hang out in the tunnel prior to kickoff before walking out onto the field with the team. I was able to meet Luke’s parents earlier in the summer and even though Luke was a little too shy to admit it himself, Luke’s parents told me how much he looked up to me - how he dreamed of being in my shoes. He wanted to play soccer at Wofford, he wanted to play for the Battery, and to ice the cake, I was his coach doing exactly what he dreamed of doing. We all can remember those days when you would go to school and brag to all your friends about some famous person you met and how he/she knew you. I was Luke’s famous person. What Luke or his friends probably don't know is that not only did Luke know me, I knew Luke. Sure he was just a kid at camp, but regardless of whether I met him once for 12 minutes or got to hang out with him once a week for 12 weeks, I learned just as much from Luke as he learned from me. I can remember admiring handfuls of players at all levels when when I was younger and how cool it would have been to have had a personal relationship with one of them. I knew that even though hanging out in the tunnel and walking onto the field was already going to be very special, that I could do something that could make it a little bit better. I met with our equipment manager earlier in the week and had him create a one of a kind jersey that I would have the squad sign for Luke. Walking out of the locker room into the tunnel and seeing Luke look up at all the players in absolute shock was beyond satisfying in itself. He was starstruck. Little did he know I had something for him. I walked up to Luke, gave him a high five and then unfolded the jersey from my hands and showed Luke the front. Being the devote Battery fan that he is, Luke was already wearing a Battery top, so even though it was a one of a kind jersey, plenty of people had jerseys. I flipped it around and showed him the back that was signed by everyone on the squad. Once he swallowed what was now his, it was if he had lost the ability to speak. His smile was ear to ear and his face blushed as red as a cherry. Luke had made a special impact on me over the summer and I felt as if I owed him a something special too. Something so small, meant so much.