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Soccer stalwart and academic All-American looks for next opportunity — off the pitch

Michael Perry was named an academic All-American for his classroom accomplishments.

Michael Perry sees opportunities everywhere, and he doesn’t like to waste them.

Perry came to Colorado hoping to play soccer and study business. That’s all. And while on campus, he did both those things well enough to be selected team captain and to be named first team academic All-American, an honor awarded to only 11 men out of all the athletes playing at 204 Division I soccer schools.

Four years ago, when Perry arrived on campus, none of that success was assured.

The coach who recruited him was gone and the new men’s head coach, Bobby Muuss, didn’t know Perry.

“The first time I met him was when he came on campus preseason,” Muuss says. “People called me and said, ‘Don’t overlook him, he’s got all the intangibles a coach could want in an athlete.’”

Still, Perry was not the biggest guy, and he came to DU on an academic scholarship, not an athletic one.

“He came in with an opportunity,” Muuss says.

Perry knew that and moved on it. He dedicated hour after hour to the weight room; he pushed himself on the field and did mundane tasks like pumping balls and picking up gear in the locker room.

When he saw a place to help his teammates, he went straight in. He listened, he advised and, mostly, he led by example.

In 2008, when the Pioneers earned their first trip in 28 years to the NCAA tournament, they faced UC-Davis in Davis, Calif. Perry had the responsibility of defending the Aggies’ best player, a bigger, stronger guy.

“After the game, [Perry] had a big old black eye and his arms were all scratched up,” teammate Teale Stone remembers. “He had nothing left in his system. When you see a guy who’s giving it everything he’s got, that’s Michael. He just brings it, every time.”

When coaches and players sat down for annual evaluations, the coaches saw the same resolve.

“I told him ‘Every spring, I want this team to get better,’” Muuss says. “I want you to get better or I want one of our young guys coming up to be better than you.’”

Every spring, Perry had the same response: “Coach, you’re not taking my job away.” And every year, he came back stronger and played a more significant role on the team.

In 2010, the Pioneers went 9-7-4, won the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular season title and earned another NCAA tournament bid.

“We wouldn’t have had as much success without Michael,” Muuss says.

And in the classroom? Equally diligent. Semester after semester, Perry compiled a perfect record. When it looked like he was veering ever so slightly off track, he talked to Muuss.

“Coach,” Perry says, “I think I’m getting an A-. That’s ridiculous.”

A finance major, Perry will graduate June 4 with a 3.97 GPA.

The day after graduation and the day before his 22nd birthday, he’ll move home to Kansas and start a 10-week internship with a small energy investment company. He’ll keep the financial models up to date and learn the industry.

“The first 10 weeks will let me know if it’s what I want to do,” Perry says. “And depending on how it goes, I could have a two-year position as a junior analyst.”

In other words, Perry is heading to Kansas with an opportunity. And we know how that goes. If he wants that job, chances are, it’s his.

DU’s undergraduate Commencement ceremony will be 9:30 a.m. June 4 at Magness Arena. For more information r to watch a live stream of the ceremony, visit the DU Commencement website.

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