San Jose to South Bend: Dillon Powers aims to attend Notre Dame Commencement Ceremony on Sunday
In the summer of 2009, when Dillon Powers left his hometown of Plano, Texas to enroll at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana, the 18-year-old set two career goals to focus on over the next four years.
One was to continue developing and improving his game so he could become a professional soccer player.
The Colorado Rapids drafted Powers in the first round of the 2013 MLS SuperDraft in January. He made his pro debut in the team's season opener - at Dallas - on March 2.
The other goal? To graduate from Notre Dame...in three and a half years.
Powers took his last courses in December, finishing college as a Political Science major with a minor in Peace Studies.
This weekend Powers has one more goal to achieve in order to wrap it all together.
The 22-year-old will have roughly nine hours from the time the Rapids' match at San Jose's Buck Shaw Stadium ends to make it to Indiana to attend the Notre Dame University Commencement ceremony on Sunday at 9 a.m. ET at Notre Dame Stadium.
"I weighed the options back and forth," Powers told ColoradoRapids.com of his decision to try to attend the graduation ceremony. "It's a one-time event that I'll never have back. So I knew it was one thing that I didn't want to miss."
And this goal won't be easy, either.
Following the game, which will end around 9:30 p.m. PT, Powers will get a ride to San Francisco International airport to catch a 11:45 p.m. flight to Chicago. A friend will be waiting to pick Powers up when the plane lands at O'Hare Airport at 5:45 a.m. CT. They'll then have about two hours to make the 110 mile trip to South Bend in order to make the 9 a.m. ET ceremony.
It's a long journey, with zero room for delays, but one that Powers is looking forward to taking.
"I take a lot of pride in Notre Dame University," Powers said. "I think some of the guys realize that - and it may be, sometimes, a little annoying for them to hear me talk about it all the time. But it's a really special place."
Powers' two original goals were always linked.
"From day one I knew that this was something I wanted to try to do," Powers said. "I always hoped that I would graduate in three and a half years, for soccer, so I planned for it."
The midfielder said his motivation to finish early was the annual MLS SuperDraft, which takes place in January. If he was fortunate to be drafted after his senior season, he wanted to be able to fully dedicate himself to which ever team selected him - with a degree in his back pocket.
Apart from his studies, which included summer classes and a 3.4 grade point average, Powers also excelled on the field for the Fighting Irish. He started 64 out of 78 games and served as the team captain during his junior and senior years. He was a 2012 MAC Hermann Trophy Semifinalist before entering the MLS draft.
"I never grew up on Notre Dame nor was I really high on it before I went, but after being there I realize it was one of the best decisions in my life," he said of his alma mater.
After 11 games in MLS, Powers has gained national attention for his midfield play for the up-and-coming Rapids, mentioned often as one of the early favorites in MLS Rookie of the Year discussions.
But the only prize he's thinking of right now is the one he'll get when he walks across the stage at Notre Dame Stadium on Sunday morning.
"I'm taking my cap and gown with me in my carry-on," Powers said. "I just hope everything goes according to plan."
So far it has.