For Marcus Tracy, much of the recent focus has been on his future.
Expected to be among the top picks in the upcoming MLS draft on Jan. 15, Wake Forest's standout forward instead reportedly has opted to play professionally in Denmark.
First, however, Tracy had to close out the final chapter of his college career, which he did in impressive fashion, winning the MAC Hermann Trophy on Friday night."It's an unbelievable honor to be considered the top player for the 2008 season," Tracy said. "I'm just humbled and honored about being selected."
Tracy is the first Demon Deacon to receive the honor."I'm looking to pursue professional soccer," Tracy said. "I'm going to see what works out over in Europe. I'm not attending the combine, but MLS is still certainly an option. I haven't signed anything yet. I just want to play the game that I love for as long as possible." Wherever he ends up, his future club will be getting a top-notch athlete.
"He's an explosive player," Wake Forest coach Jay Vidovich said. "Everybody is always looking for a front-runner to finish goals, create goals, and that's just Marcus. He's an athletic specimen. He does the dirty work as well. He's a tremendous project for someone at the next level."
Even before the Hermann announcement, Tracy clearly had compiled an impressive soccer resume at Wake Forest: three College Cup appearances, All-ACC and All-American honors, the 2007 national championship and the 2007 College Cup Most Outstanding Offensive Player award.
Tracy was one of just two players in the nation to tally double digits in goals (13) and assists (10) this season. His stellar performances throughout the year -- he had a point in 16 of Wake Forest's 24 games -- helped the Demon Deacons to a 21-2-1 record.
He finishes his college career as one of the top players in Wake Forest history, ranking among the program's top 10 in career points (83), goals (30) and assists (23).Over my career at Wake Forest, I've just grown as a person and a player," Tracy said, reflecting on his four years in Winston-Salem. "I've just learned so much about discipline and the game of soccer and those are things that are going to take me far."
Teammate Sam Cronin joined Tracy as a finalist for the award, finishing third in the voting.
"What a tremendous situation," Vidovich said. "To have two finalists in the same year is just a special thing. ... Their success and growth as players has really driven the program to another level."
A senior midfielder, Cronin has been an anchor for Wake Forest, never missing a game or a practice in his four years with the program.
"Sam is just the consummate team player," Vidovich said. "To be just one of the final three is unbelievable. Really, it's a tremendous credit to all three of the boys."
The third of those players was Akron's Steve Zakuani, who finished as the Hermann runner-up. The sophomore led the nation in goals (20) and points (47). Zakuani also will join the professional ranks, having declared himself for the MLS draft.
"As good as he is and as well as he did in college soccer, he still has a lot of room for growth as a player, and I think that's what's most exciting for me," Zips coach Caleb Porter said. "The timing was right for him, time for him to make a jump to the next level."
That doesn't mean the forward won't be missed.
"He proved to be a difference-maker," Porter said. "For him to put up these numbers in the modern era of soccer is incredible, especially as a sophomore."
Porter also lauded Zakuani's company among the finalists.
"The Wake Forest program has really set the standard for college soccer the last four or five years, and for him to be considered amongst that group is a great honor and a testament to the quality of player that he is," Porter said.
It's that level of quality all three of the finalists will carry with them as they pursue the game in the next phase of their playing careers -- be it here or abroad.
Maria Burns Ortiz covers college soccer for ESPNsoccernet. She can be reached at email@example.com.