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Stewart joins as an ambassador

Ross Stewart is a prime example of how the US system prepares players for life after college. The Dundela FC player returned to Northern Ireland in 2019. The Daemen College graduate joins the team as an ambassador hoping to help the youth of tomorrow obtain opportunities in the USA.

Can you give us a quick overview of your career before moving to the USA?

Prior to going to the USA in July 2015, I played for PSNI FC, a NIFL Championship team from January 2015 until I departed and this was a great step for me in my playing career. Playing Senior football for the first time, I learned a lot from all the quality players who were at the club and this helped me grow as a player.

Previous to that I was with Glentoran FC from under 17 level to reserve level making one first-team appearance in a pre-season friendly. Playing in the Irish youth league and reserve league was quality. I was playing against up and coming players who are now playing in the league at present and getting the opportunity to play against season pros was massive in my growth as a footballer.

Going through the journey, I would say it really helped me develop as a footballer and as a person. It gave me the opportunity to learn about players from different: journeys, backgrounds, and levels.

I recently signed with Dundela FC who play in the NIFL Championship in August 2020. Due to COVID-19 we weren’t able to get a season this year. So, it’s been a frustrating year but I am enjoying my time with the team and cannot wait to see what the future holds for us when we are eventually able to get a season going. Previously to signing with Dundela, I returned home in August 2019 where I signed with Ards Rangers FC who plays in the Premier Amateur league.

How did your move to the USA materialise?

I was going to University at Jordanstown, my good mate came in probably around September 2014 and told me that he was signing up with an agency to help pursue a scholarship to the USA.

I was previously at Belfast MET full-time football academy prior to UUJ, I missed training and playing football full-time. Playing full-time was a massive incentive for me to get my school work done because, if we weren’t up to date with school work we weren’t allowed to train or play. I also always had a dream of going to the USA to study and play from high school. So, when my good mate told me about the opportunity to potentially do this I was all for it.

I signed up with an agency to pursue my dream of achieving an athletic scholarship to the USA.

About six months later I was signing my NLI with Davis and Elkins College (NCAA DII) in Elkins, West Virginia and I flew out in July 2015.

Can you tell us about your experience in the USA and some of the highlights over your four years?

So, I was a junior transfer and the first college I went to was Davis and Elkins College. The two years I attended the college I made so many unforgettable memories and I really consider Elkins my home away from home. My second college was Daemen College in Buffalo, NY. Again, I made great memories here and have friends for life from both colleges.

I was lucky to have played in such great teams that were filled with international and local talent. I had team-mates from; Germany, Norway, Belgium, France, Spain, Sweden, Scotland, California, New York, Pennsylvania, and Arizona.

I was lucky to have three quality head coaches and an assistant coach to learn from. Coach Greg Myers who won two national titles with D&E in the late 1960s, was my first head coach. Secondly, Coach Frank Olszewski brought 20 years of NCAA DI coaching experience to our team for my second year. Lastly, Coach Bobby McColl, originally from Scotland, brought a winning mentality to Daemen College and the experience of taking a team to the NCAA DII national tournament. Bedi Swan is now the head coach of Daemen College.

The great thing about going to the United States is that you’ll have just as many experiences off the pitch as you will on it. We were the GMAC Regular Season Champions in 2016 with D&E, I played in every game except for a couple where I was either injured or suspended with Daemen College. We set the record for the most wins in program history as a NCAA DII program and I was team captain for Daemen college in 2017. Lastly, I got to start my college coaching career as a Grad assistant coach at Daemen College.

I spent two Thanksgivings with the Braun family, with whom I am still in contact. I was in Panama City Beach, Florida for Spring break 2016, was part of the host family programme where I was grateful to be brought into Thomas Minney’s family, made friends for life, got both my bachelor’s degree (sports management) and master’s degree (international business). Lastly, I got to visit numerous states and different countries during my time as a student-athlete.

What have you found most rewarding during your time in America?

The overall experience of living away, being on your own, the independency of it all honestly. There is always going to be opportunities that come along with the whole experience, but for me those specific experiences I mentioned above really set you up for the next stage in your life whether that be within the game or not, it really makes you grow up fast.   

How has life been since graduation?

I returned home in August 2019, I tried to stay in the US to continue coaching and it just didn’t work out at the time. So, I returned home and the plan was to get back playing as I coached my last year in the USA.

However, the pandemic we are in has postponed that plan indefinitely. Moving forward I believe I have a lot to give back to the game and I hope to pursue a career in coaching wherever that may be.

Getting on board with Atlantic Scholarships is an opportunity I could not turn down and when Jake got in touch with me it was a no-brainer. So, I am looking forward to working with himself, Ben and providing life-changing opportunities for potential student-athletes. A process that is transparent and strives to be the best it can be for the student-athletes of the future.

What advice would you give to any aspiring student-athlete looking to pursue a scholarship in the USA?

Simple, put yourself out there and buy into the journey. The opportunity that you’ve always wanted, go out there and be the best you can be. Get involved in the American lifestyle, make lasting relationships, and soak up the life lessons you’ll learn along the way.



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