January is going to be a month to remember for University of Akron defender and NPSL alumnus Nate Shultz.
He’s coming off a huge fall with the Zips as Akron reached the NCAA Final Four, falling to Stanford in the College Cup semifinal. Shultz was a regular in the starting lineup for UA, starting 23 matches and contributing two goals and two assists.
In late December he was invited to the 2018 MLS Player Combine that takes place from January 11-17 in Orlando, FL. He was one of 60 Division I college players and six NPSL alums that were asked to participate.
Earlier this week he was ranked #40 on Top Drawer Soccer’s 2018 MLS Draft Big Board, an honor reserved for the best of the best.
As you can see, it’s an exciting time to be Nate Shultz. The combine invite means he is potentially weeks away from becoming a professional soccer player. This would put him in impressive company as 32 former Zips have taken that step into the professional game.
“I am so humbled to even be mentioned in that group,” Shultz commented. “Becoming a pro would be huge. I’d be so grateful. It has been a dream as long as I can remember. It definitely would be a dream come true.”
The combine offers a special chance for the Mayfield, Ohio native to showcase his skills.
“I’m honored and super excited to be part of the combine,” Shultz added. “I’m looking forward to the opportunities that the event offers.”
He’s been preparing for the combine for the past few weeks, working on fitness, lifting, getting touches on the ball, and staying fit and sharp. He will go into the event with confidence and truly knows that if he plays his game, he will show well.
Shultz described himself as a “smart, tactical, very technical” player. Simply put, he is a lockdown 1v1 defender that so many teams are looking for. He’s also a modern defender in the sense that he is an attacking outside back that can change the tide of a game. Everyone is in agreement that he is best suited as a right back.
According to University of Akron men’s soccer head coach Jared Embick, Shultz should do well at the combine thanks to a massive skill set.
“For me, his strength is his passing and ability to move. His technical ability and passing are excellent. He is highly consistent and has good pace, size, and strength. He is very solid and smart defensively. He is an all-around player ready for the next level.”
Can he produce in the final third and provide a “wow” moment at the combine? That is an important question Embick raised. He also encouraged scouts to watch closely to see his positioning and decision-making.
“If you watch him in just one game, he might not stand out,” Embick added. “But if you watch him in 10 games, you’ll notice that he doesn’t have a bad game.”
Having the opportunity to play professionally has a lot to do with his work at UA and the NPSL. Both entities have consistently developed players that are capable of taking it to the next level. As mentioned previously, Akron has nearly three dozen players that have turned pro, while NPSL players have gone to play in over 30 different countries.
When asked about playing for Akron, Shultz had a lot of positive things to share. “It’s great. When you are recruited by Akron, you think about all of the players that have turned pro or won a national title. You realize just how good the program is.”
The same went for his experience in the NPSL.
“The NPSL was a great league,” Shultz continued. “It was great to fine tune my skills, work with different coaches. It’s good to get lots of touches and work on fitness. In the NPSL you are always training with high-level players. It’s so important to have that opportunity because the fall season is so close.”
The next time you see Nate Shultz, he may very well be a professional player in MLS. And that is a very special thought for this brilliant and talented player.
“Everyone wants the opportunity to play professionally. I am very thankful, very grateful for this opportunity.”
And anyone that knows Shultz knows that he will make the most of it.
Photo Credit:Richard Kruszynski/ISNSoccer.com