THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Tuesday, July 5, 1994 TAG: 9407050173 SECTION: SPORTS PAGE: C4 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY RICH RADFORD, STAFF WRITER LENGTH: Medium: 73 lines
When coming out of high school, Rob Ukrop wasn't above selling himself as a soccer player. So he wrote to a couple of schools in his home state of Virginia.
He'll never forget one of the corresponding letters.
``I won't tell you which school it was, but the coach there wrote `You aren't Division I material,' '' said Ukrop, who grew up in Richmond and played for Richmond Collegiate Schools.
Ukrop has done everything he could to prove that coach wrong.
Although he had partial scholarship offers to Wake Forest and Richmond, Ukrop chose Davidson College, where he paid his way, then took the Wildcats to the NCAA Final Four as a senior while being named the nation's outstanding Division I player for 1992 by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
``I'd say that letter drove me a little bit,'' said Ukrop.
Maybe the coach thought he was too slow.
``I'm not the quickest player in the world.''
Maybe too slight.
``I wasn't very big coming out of high school,'' said the now 6-foot-2 1/2, 200-pound Ukrop.
Maybe he lacked an understanding of the game.
``I think I understand the game pretty well.''
The U.S. Interregional Soccer League thought enough of Ukrop to name him to the Atlantic Division All-Star team, for whom he'll start Wednesday night when the Atlantic All-Stars take on the USISL All-Stars in the USISL All-Star Game at Virginia Beach's Center for Effective Learning. Game time is 7:30.
Ukrop admits it's a game played for fun. But he also realizes there will be Major League Soccer scouts in the stands, surveying the talent and looking for players that could help their cause when the 12-team league, to be designated as the United States' only Division I league, begins play next spring.
``A lot of it is up to me, some of it is up to the evaluation,'' Ukrop said, speaking of the training site of the U.S. World Cup team. ``I was hoping to be invited to Mission Viejo, but things didn't work out.''
Ukrop figured he had a chance at making the select player pool after playing on the National ``B'' team which competed in last summer's University Games (the highlight of his ``B'' team experience was scoring two goals and an assist in a 3-2 win over Italy).
A broken jaw sustained during the most recent winter indoor soccer season didn't help matters. Ukrop, who currently plays for the Raleigh Flyers, was playing for Baltimore Spirit of the National Pro Soccer League when he caught a ``cheap shot'' elbow.
``It broke my jaw in five places,'' Ukrop said.
It was the second serious injury for Ukrop in three years. In his fourth year at Davidson, he sustained a broken leg in the second game of the season against North Carolina.
``My mom and dad were in tears as we drove home to Richmond after the game,'' Ukrop remembered. ``But I was looking on the bright side: We had an awful lot of talent coming back at Davidson and I was going to get a medical redshirt.''
Allowed to come back for a fifth year - medical redshirts are granted if a player plays less than 10 percent of a season due to injury - Ukrop and the Wildcats matched to the Final Four, which they hosted, by beating such soccer powerhouses as Cal-State Fullerton, UCLA and N.C. State on the way.
Now 24, Ukrop says he will give pro soccer a few more years and would like a chance to play for the U.S. if the country qualifies for the 1998 World Cup to be played in France.
An heir to a highly successful family supermarket chain in the Greater Richmond area, Ukrop said his father Bob knows the importance of chasing an athletic dream.
``He always had a dream of playing on the PGA Tour and didn't attempt it,'' Ukrop said. ``He said he'll support my dream for a couple more years.'' by CNB