A place to call his own

He controls the pass from Seabrook. He dribbles right, gets a clean look at the goal from 20 yards out and puts the ball into the back of the net, giving the Bulls the win.

This is what Zak Boggs, junior forward for the Bulls, lives for.

“My dream was always to play soccer,” he said. “That was my first love.”

It started in the small town of Vienna, W. Va., where soccer was nothing more than an afterthought. In a state where rowdy football fans roam the land in packs, supporting their beloved Mountaineers, how could one actually consider kicking a soccer ball on a regular basis?

“It was tough,” Boggs said. “I had to commute two hours just to compete. That’s what I wanted to do, so nothing was going to hold me back.”

And nothing did.

With a support system to help him succeed, Boggs quickly became a star, whether playing for the local club team or at the collegiate level.

In 2003, as a high school freshman, he was the  West Virginia High School Player of the Year.

He needed a change, however. He needed a place that would allow soccer to be a year-round event.

“It’s bleak up there (in West Virginia),” he said. “It’s nice every day in Florida. I can play soccer every day of the year down here. I can’t do that in West Virginia.”

Boggs received an acceptance letter from the IMG Soccer Academy in Bradenton, and packed his things.

“It was so sudden,” Rochelle, Boggs’ mother, said of the transition. “He was young, and we weren’t expecting such a change so quick. It was rough.”

After prep school, Boggs returned to his home state and played at the University of West Virginia for a year to be close to his family again. At the end of his freshman year, his coach was fired, and Boggs decided to return to the Sunshine State.

He took an offer at UCF, where he was heavily recruited coming out of high school, but there, too, coaching changes made him lose interest.

Boggs finally found a home at USF. He’d known about coach George Kiefer since his time at West Virginia. He quickly jumped on board — and the decision couldn’t have been a better one, he said.

“USF is a great school,” Boggs said. “I attended those other schools (UCF and UWV), so I root for them, but South Florida has the upper hand as far as athletics are concerned.”

Boggs hasn’t disappointed on or off the field.

“Zak’s an amazing kid,” Kiefer said. “You always know what you’re going to get with the kid. He gets everybody around him to work harder with his work ethic.”

Boggs  said he’s bonded well with his teammates.

“Doing different things growing up has really helped me relate to different types of people,” he said.  “A lot of my teammates are different, and I can relate to them.”

Boggs has engaged in a variety of activities over the years.

At age 10, he received a second degree black belt in karate after years of practicing martial arts.

In the fifth grade, he was a West Virginia state marbles champion. He won 53 matches en route to the state title and a scholarship.

He earned Eagle Scout honors at the age of 14, after moving up the ranks for seven years.

In high school, he competed in jump rope, qualifying for nationals. He also added a junior Olympic gold medal in Tae Kwon Do sparring to his resume.

It was his sister, Tori Boggs, however, who took the spotlight in the family by recently becoming the world champion in jump rope.

“It’s hard to believe — she’s only 15,” Zak Boggs said. “She’s been on ESPN a half dozen times. I’m definitely not the most-known person in the family.”

Maybe not, but being in the limelight doesn’t seem to be a concern for Boggs.

“I get the impression that he doesn’t relish the spotlight as much as some other people,” Rochelle Boggs said. “I think he can be too humble sometimes.”

“I know some things, but I’m modest,” he said.

Boggs has completed a biomedical science degree and is working toward a degree in economics. He’s also been accepted to graduate school, where he’ll work on his master’s in economics.

He is a 4.0 student.

“I’ve always wanted to play soccer,” Boggs said. “That was my first dream. I have a lot of options available to me if that doesn’t work out.”