Eight years after leaving Clemson University for Major League Soccer, Colorado Rapids midfielder Nathan Sturgis has finally accomplished a life-long goal.
On top of setting personal career season-highs in games played, started, minutes, and goals in 2013, last week the 26-year-old Sturgis graduated from college with a Bachelor of Arts degree in finance.
"It was something I've always wanted to do," Sturgis told ColoradoRapids.com. "I would have liked to have stayed at Clemson to get my degree, but I had an opportunity to go professional, so I took it. But I still wanted to get my degree, and looking post-soccer career, this will help me out a lot."
Sturgis had accumulated approximately 40 credits during his two years at Clemson. And while most of his classes were part of the required general education curriculum, he had already envisioned a business major.
When MLS came calling in late 2005, the then 18-year-old signed a Generation adidas contract with the League, which, above his salary to play, also provided a stipend to continue his studies.
"My MLS contract reimbursed me for school expenses," Sturgis noted. "As a Generation adidas player, I had 10 years to finish classes and get them paid for, so that was another motivation for me to finish school."
Sturgis was selected 12th overall in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft by Los Angeles Galaxy. Not long after, he enrolled in an online College, since his former school did not offer distance learning.
"I decided on finance about a year after I got out of Clemson. It was something that really interested me," Sturgis said. "I've been taking online classes off and on since, but I've been doing them pretty consistently for the last two years, when I really buckled down."
The first two online colleges he enrolled in did not provide the flexibility he needed in order to balance a professional sports career with school. However in 2011, Sturgis enrolled at Ashford University, which allowed him to take one class at a time for five consecutive weeks. The day after one class ended, the next one began.
"It's really tough to play and also do school on the side," he said. "But it was something I was motivated to do."
While playing for Toronto, Houston, and now Colorado, for the past two years Sturgis has gone home every day after training to take a course, an exam, or finish an assignment. Often times, he would have to do his school work while on the road from the team hotel.
"It was very challenging," Sturgis said. "It was really tough to stay on top of it, but I wanted to get it done sooner rather than later, so I stuck it out."
The University will hold their fall commencement ceremony in October at their campus in Iowa, making it unlikely for him to attend, he said.