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A Look Back With Madison’s Paul Wyatt

Dec 20, 2012, 8:44 AM EDT

Dukes’ All-America Paul Wyatt was a four-year starter and four-time all-league player for JMU.  The British-born senior has been invited to January’s Major League Soccer Player Combine, where aspiring professional players will participate in hopes of being drafted by an MLS team.  In an interview that took place before the Combine invitations were issued, Wyatt reflected on his soccer career with Devon Howard of JMU Athletics Communications.

Tell us about your hometown.
  I’m from a small town in England called Modbury, and it has a population of about 2,000 people.  It’s tiny — a typical picturesque English town near Plymouth, about 3 1/2 hours from London.  It’s in the southwest of England in the countryside, right by the beach.  It’s a very nice place.

What sports did you play growing up?
  I played pretty much everything.  I started off playing rugby and played for about 10 years, and then soccer took over.  But I played tennis, I swam, I did everything.  I was one of those kids who was outside from the moment I woke up until the last light every day, just playing with my friends, playing any sports we could play.  That was basically my childhood, and eventually soccer took over in a big way.

I ended my rugby career with a youth World Cup in Japan, which was cool.  So that was, I guess, a good way to go out.  And soccer has been my passion ever since.  I just preferred the social side of soccer more than rugby, so that’s how I ended up here really.

What made you want to play soccer in the United States?
  The big appeal is that you can continue to play at a high level while getting an education.  In England if you want to play professionally, you need to be signed by a club when you’re 16 as a pro.  Then you really have to commit to that, and you can’t really study at the same time.  What often happens is kids end up signing a pro contract and then, a few years down the road, they get released and they have no education.

I was at a point where I felt I wasn’t going anywhere.  I was working and I was out of school.  I was at a point where I wanted to go in a different direction and this seemed like a really good opportunity.  And it was; I made the right decision.

What American schools did you consider?
  I can’t remember exactly; there were quite a lot.  When you don’t really know the schools, they’re just a bunch of names until you look on the Internet.  Then you look at a bunch of facts, and it’s really hard to tell which schools are good and which schools are not.  I was lucky enough to get some advice from a family friend and a former player for Doc (JMU coach Tom Martin), Jake Edwards.  He is actually helping me now with where I’m going to go after this.  He was a big help for me.
(Editor’s note:  Edwards played for JMU from 1994-97 and had a 13-year professional career in England before retiring in 2010.)

How did you choose JMU?
  I talked to as many people as I could who had done similar things.  Really, JMU just seemed like it had everything that I wanted.  It’s a reputable school for academics, it’s no joke with that sort of thing, and it’s a competitive program as well.  I really felt like the program was a good fit for me and, talking to Doc, he gave me a lot of advice about other schools.

I almost went to a school in Kansas, which was similar to JMU.  But I didn’t know about the location, and I was a little misguided in that.  Then Doc called me and said, “Listen you’re making a huge mistake and we want you to come here.”  I talked to Jake and ended up changing my mind.  I’m positive I made the right decision, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.  I’m just glad that I got so lucky.

For the rest of the Q&A visit