It's a new semester of Alumni Spotlight features and we are kicking off the new season by featuring class of 2016 men's soccer alumnus Ned Wagner. Ned, who has spent a great majority of his life thus far abroad, is someone who is the perfect example of what it means to never give up on a dream. He has shown himself, family, friends, and this Red Devil community that if you want something bad enough and have a passion for it, go do it.
Ned was born in England and lived overseas until he was 13 years old. He would pick up the game of soccer at a young age and instantly fell in love with the sport. He continued playing when his family moved to Canada and knew that he wanted soccer to be a part of his life during his collegiate career.
"I ended up looking at a variety of schools, both Division I and Division III," Ned said. "Dickinson was not the school I was originally going to attend but ended up switching last minute." His visit to Dickinson solidified the fact that it would be a great fit for him to continue his education and for his playing career. "The pieces just fell into place for me during the recruiting process and it turned out to be a great choice."
After his collegiate playing career Ned received an opportunity to try out for the Harrisburg City Islanders, a sub division team of the Philadelphia Union. However, after receiving the chance to sign a contract and play professionally, Ned choose instead to take a job in New York and begin his career in the professional world.
It didn't take long for Ned to decide that he truly wanted to be back on the pitch and pursue the chance to play soccer at a professional level. "There aren't a lot of Division III players that get the opportunity to play professionally and that was weighing on me heavily," Ned said.
So, Ned resigned from his job, packed a bag and flew to England to pursue a chance to play professionally in the UK. "If I was going to do it, I was going to do it big." However, Ned faced a lot of challenges early on the process. He had no try outs set up, no contacts, and no professional experience. What he did have a was a relentless will to pursue his goal.
After months of hearing nothing Ned began to lose hope that his dream was ever going to be reality. He began to look at flights home when his phone rang with a call that would change his entire trajectory. "It was an agent from London, who I had reached out to a few months prior," Ned said. "He told me to tell him my story, he had seen my clips, knew what type of player I was and I just asked him for a chance."
Ned received a one-day tryout in the north of England for a small professional league team called Alfreton Tow Football Club. Regardless of the fact that he was tired and as Ned admits "not eating great," he performed outstandingly that day and was invited back for multiple weeks until one day he was told, "look we need a center back and you're the guy."
Ned would play out the season with Alfreton before making a move that offseason to a bigger club that had noticed him during the season, Kidderminster Harriers Football Club. He would play for that club for a year, playing against some of the big up and coming stars of the Premiere League as well as internationally, such as Jack Grealish.
When reflecting about his time in England and how his journey has turned out he stated, "It takes a lot of hard work and it was tough, I reached a low point I never have experienced," Ned stated. "It just goes to show you that if you work hard and that chance comes, you just have to take advantage of it. As long as you put your mind to it you can really accomplish whatever you want."
Ned enjoyed a standout career at Dickinson, moving into a starting role on defense in his sophomore season. He went on to earn All-Region honors as a senior and was a two-time All-Centennial Conference selection as a center back. He helped lead the Red Devils to four straight Centennial Conference playoff and NCAA Tournament appearances. During Ned's four seasons, the Red Devils recorded 32 shutouts, twice coming within one of the single season school record, posting nine in 2012 and 2013.
To watch Ned's full interview, click on the video below.