Dylan Curtis‘ career was over.
A senior academically but a junior athletically, the captain of UC Davis‘ men’s soccer team decided to forgo his final year of eligibility.
He was voted the most valuable player on the first Aggies team to qualify for the NCAA Division I Tournament and participated in the team’s Senior Day festivities before closing the book on an impressive collegiate career last season.
“The only reason I was going through the festivities,” Curtis said, “was because I was positive I was done.”
Then he wasn’t.
After leaving the game following the end of the season, Curtis started thinking about the possibility of donning his familiar No. 13 jersey for one more year.
That possibility then became reality.
Head coach Dwayne Shaffer couldn’t have been happier.
“Having Dylan back on our team has been incredible,” Shaffer said. “As far as a soccer player, I couldn’t ask for anything better. He’s just so dangerous.
“But more than that, Dylan is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet in your life. He’s outstanding academically, he gives back to his community, he’s always asking me, ‘Coach, what can I do to help?’ He’s a leader.… He is absolutely a coach’s dream.“
As impressive as the Aggies were a season ago, they’re that much more impressive this season. UC Davis is ranked No. 7 in the country according to three different polls, and No. 1 in NSCAA’s Far West regional rankings.
Curtis can be found at the core of that success in his season that almost wasn’t.
“My brother was giving me a lot of crap for not taking the opportunity to come back,” Curtis said. “He told me there’s jobs for people who don’t play professional sports.“
Curtis should have that opportunity if he so chooses. Multiple Major League Soccer teams are interested in trying out the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder prior to the January draft, according to Shaffer.
If not, the managerial economics major shouldn’t have a problem excelling in any field of his choosing.
Curtis was recently named one of 10 national finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, presented annually to the senior student-athlete who best represents its four principles: classroom, character, community and competition.
(Side note: Curtis is sitting second in the polls, meaning you should vote more. Just follow this link: soccer.seniorclassaward.com/10653/playercard.aspx)
Still, Curtis finds himself somewhat overlooked – even on his own team. With stars like Quincy Amarikwa and icons like Sule Anibaba, Curtis often becomes the forgotten man on UC Davis‘ loaded roster.
He shouldn’t be.
He is, after all, the glue that keeps it all together.
“When Dylan speaks, you can hear a pin drop,” Shaffer said in reference to the team’s respect for its captain. “He has a very quiet demeanor, but a huge presence.
“I think all the kids on the team really look up to Dylan because of everything that he represents. He’s just such a great person – and a great soccer player.“
Curtis sits fourth in the country in assists, having recorded 10 helpers in 14 games. He’s one assist shy of Nikki Bagheri’s single-season record, as set in 1998.
He said he’d be lying if he said he didn’t think about his numbers, but he doesn’t want to talk much about them, either.
He just wants to talk about the Aggies‘ 11-2-2 record and their dreams of doing some damage in the NCAA Tournament.
“Our team has really come together – a lot of chemistry, a lot of veterans who are very experienced on the field,” Curtis said. “It’s fun being out there with a lot of people that know what you’re going to do, you know what they’re going to do. That’s what’s making this season so successful.“
A successful season, indeed.
But what would things have looked like without Curtis?
“I couldn’t even envision what it would be like to not have him on the team,” Shaffer said.
“Yeah, I don’t even want to think about that.“
Fortunately for Shaffer and the Aggies, they don’t have to.
Curtis‘ UC Davis career isn’t over.
“It means a lot to be here,” Curtis said. “I know looking back if I didn’t play, I’d have some regrets in the back of my head. I’m glad I don’t have to live with those regrets.“
ADAM LOBERSTEIN is voting for Dylan Curtis. Stop reading this and join him. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.