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How the 2022 Championship MVP gets his schoolwork done

By LEO FERNANDES, Tampa Bay Rowdies, 12/12/22, 1:00PM EST


Rowdies forward Leo Fernandes sets sights on Bellevue University degree

Back to School

Author - Leo Fernandes
Leo Fernandes
Tampa Bay Rowdies
December 12th, 2022

I loved my time at Stony Brook University.

We had a great team every year. We were really good, we were very competitive, and I played with some of my closest friends, relationships that continue to this day.

What’s more, I took that opportunity to drive toward my goal of becoming a professional soccer player. The individual awards I won for the Seawolves – being voted America East Midfielder of the Year three times among them – helped get me on the radar.

So did the influence of my coaches. First there was Cesar Markovic, who recruited me, this 17-year-old kid from Long Island, and brought me on board. Then there was Ryan Anatol, who is still now Head Coach and continuing to do great things for the program. Coach Anatol made the connections for me with the Philadelphia Union and their USL League Two affiliate Reading United AC to help my development.

If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

For everything I accomplished, though, there is one thing I regret – I didn’t finish my degree.

To be honest, growing up, school just wasn’t the main focus. I think it was partly because my parents were from Brazil, and I was born in Brazil, so we didn't really know how the system worked here. My number one goal was to play professional soccer, so every day I was at Stony Brook, the work was to make it as a pro, and school came second.

Thankfully, I achieved my primary aim, even if getting picked in the old MLS Supplemental Draft wasn’t the most glamorous entryway. No, I didn’t get to shake Don Garber’s hand, and I didn’t get a scarf to mark the moment. Actually, my agent called me before the Union did to let me know. My name appeared on the league website, and it was off to training camp.

Time to work.

A decade on from leaving Stony Brook, though, I’m happy to say I’m back in school.

And, what’s more, I love my new routine.

Whenever I’m done with training, I have an hour or two before I go and pick up my son from school. I’ll head into a local coffee shop, open my computer and Bellevue University coursework, and I’ll get a bunch of work done toward my Bachelors’ Degree in Sports Management.

I like the flexibility Bellevue University allows me to just go online and take care of my work or do assignments. That part has been great, because when the kids get home, there’s no more free time. The afternoons and evenings, it’s all about them.

I will say, though, we’re becoming a studious family. My wife is also taking courses to become a nurse practitioner, and we want to make sure we’re examples for our kids, showing them the importance of school and education. I’m very happy Bellevue University – through its partnership with the USL – has given me this opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted.

So, what does my future look like? I ask myself that every day, and I’m still not sure yet.

The good news is I still love playing football, and I still see myself being a player for a long time. After the past season for the Tampa Bay Rowdies – winning Most Valuable Player, but missing out on the league title – I’m even more determined to come back and try and help my team win the USL Championship next year.

But between completing my degree and pursuing my coaching licenses – I’ve earned my USSF “B” License so far – I know that whatever the future holds, I’m going to be ready for that next adventure.

From The Pitch aims to provide a platform for individuals within the USL to share their thoughts on things that matter most to them – at the crossroads of life and the beautiful game. USL partner Bellevue University is committed to empowering motivated students to explore their passions, impact change in their communities and chase their dreams.

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