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Boggs sets his sights on prestigious Rhodes Scholarship

Adding to a long list of accolades in athletic achievement, classroom excellence and community service, Zak Boggs is now focusing on his application for the Rhodes Scholarship, one of the oldest and most prestigious academic awards in the world.

There are four criteria in the Rhodes scholarship: academics, athletics, leadership and service. And the 6-foot-1, 190-pound men’s soccer forward has distinguished himself in all four categories.

Former scholarship recipients include former U.S. President Bill Clinton, astronomer Edwin Hubble and former Florida State safety Myron Rolle.

Applicants for the Rhodes come from 16 different regions around the U.S., said Arnaldo Mejias, coordinator of national scholarships in the USF Honors College. Students must qualify for and clear the final interviews in their region before consideration for one of 32 available scholarships at the national level. Two are selected from each region.

USF has yet to have a Rhodes scholar. Boggs, who will apply in fall 2010, said the Honors College recently approached him about applying.

As a requirement for the application, he received a nomination from the University, and President Judy Genshaft met with him at the beginning of the fall semester, saying she would assist Boggs in any way she could.

“It’s huge. He would be our rock star,” Genshaft said. “It’s quite a wonderful achievement for him, but it would also be a huge one for the University. My first desire is for him … to make the Rhodes scholar go on your resume would be great for the rest of your life.”

Boggs, who previously attended West Virginia and UCF, said he’ll be applying from District 7, which includes Florida. If he receives the scholarship, Boggs, an avid English soccer fan, will spend two years studying at Oxford University in England.

“No one ever has won it (from USF), so they’re really pushing for that,” Boggs said. “It says in the Rhodes applications that they try and select people from schools that have never won it, so that’s pretty cool.”

With all of his achievements, Genshaft said Boggs has a good chance to become a Rhodes scholar.

“He’s very capable,” Genshaft said. “He’s well-rounded and high-achieving. I told him I’ll do anything I can to help him in his application.”

A smart choice

For most undergraduate students, to get a biomedical sciences degree with a 4.0 GPA is a pretty tough feat.

Boggs did it in three years.

The Rhodes scholarship guidelines say, “There is no minimum GPA, but the average GPA of recent Rhodes Scholars is very high (about 3.9).”

Boggs is now pursuing a master’s in marketing and participates in public health research.

“Zak is creating a culture here,” said USF men’s soccer coach George Kiefer. “We now have four guys who are getting 4.0 or close to that … Zak is a guy who can show you the ropes on studying and being disciplined.”

USF’s men’s soccer team is following suit. It raked in a team GPA of 3.14 last season, which earned the NSCAA’s team academic award. Last year, Boggs was named an ESPN Academic All-American and the school’s first Big East Male Scholar Athlete of the Year.

“I think it’s huge because let’s face it: in soccer, you could be the best athlete and that may not give you any type of support for your family down the road,” Kiefer said.

Service to others

When Boggs isn’t scoring goals or studying, he is busy with community service.

With his interest in the medical field, the West Virginia native volunteers at two institutions: the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute’s MRI department and Shriners Hospitals for Children in Tampa.

At age 10, Boggs was a black belt in tae kwon do. At 14 years old, he was an Eagle Scout and in high school he qualified for nationals in jump rope.

Service is an integral element of the Rhodes application, so Boggs said he’s working on a new project: creating an after-school program for kids at Pizzo Elementary School, which is on the southeast side of campus.

While the program is still in the works, Boggs said he’s hoping it will involve something with his jump rope background.

“I’m working on a couple of things right now,” Boggs said. “It’s a process.”

Goal-oriented

Boggs’ athletic talent was showcased perfectly this weekend.

During a 1-1 tie against St. John’s on Saturday night, senior Ogi Perucica floated a shot off the crossbar in the first half. It deflected right into Boggs’ path and he acrobatically bicycle kicked it past the Red Storm’s goalkeeper to give the Bulls a lead in the first half.

It was only the second goal this season for Boggs, who has started every match, but Kiefer said he’s pleased with Boggs’ performance.

“He’s scored a lot of goals in training, and I think he’s created a fair amount of stuff,” Kiefer said. “I think teams pay a lot of attention to him, where that opens up other guys.”

After transferring from UCF in 2007, Boggs was in second place last year with five goals and five assists, starting every match for USF.

At UCF in 2006, he led the Knights with five goals and 29 shots. Before that, he was at West Virginia in 2005 where he started 20 games before leaving because his coach was fired.

Kiefer said he’s proud of what Boggs has brought to the USF program.

“I think he deserves (the Rhodes). It’s nice that he’s even being considered for it right now … You look at Zak and he’s a very highly motivated player,” he said. “At times things get a little tough and he’s still out there working.”

Follow the leader

The Rhodes scholarship guidelines characterize leadership as the “moral force of character and instincts to lead, and to take an interest in one’s fellow beings.”

There’s no doubt Boggs keeps busy with his role on the soccer team, schoolwork and off-field projects. However, Kiefer said he still spends time trying to help his teammates.

“He’s helpful to guys – even tutors the players and other athletes with their studies,” Kiefer said.

The Bulls lost a number of talented seniors after last season, including forward Jordan Seabrook and defender Yohance Marshall, who both moved on to professional careers.

It hasn’t hurt USF one bit, though.

The Bulls are ranked in the top 10 and are on a 24-game home unbeaten streak. Boggs said that’s been a tribute to the team’s collective effort.

“The way we practice, it’s been a lot more intense this year,” he said. “We realize that last year is not going to be this year. This year is this year.”

Genshaft said when she met with Boggs, she was impressed with the way he carried himself.

“He has so much experience at different universities, to be able to carry that through and graduate from USF is really impressive,” she said.

Boggs said he was planning to apply for the Rhodes this fall, but that he wanted to add to his resume and focus on the after-school program at Pizzo. He’s gathering letters of recommendation from various professors in the marketing and science departments, while finishing his master’s degree.

“It says a lot about him,” Kiefer said. “It says a lot about his family – his upbringing.”