FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – On Thursday evening, Diego Fagundez will temporarily trade in his jersey and cleats for a cap and gown as he officially becomes a high school graduate.
The Leominster, Mass., resident, who at 19 years old is already an accomplished professional soccer player and the reigning New England Revolution team MVP, will walk with his fellow classmates from Goodrich Academy after completing his course requirements on time.
Thursday night’s ceremony will be the culmination of a long journey for Fagundez, who was a freshman at Leominster High School when he signed with the Revs as a 15-year-old back in 2010. For the past three-and-a-half years, Fagundez has expertly balanced life as both a pro athlete and high school student.
After finishing out his freshman year at Leominster High while training with the Revolution’s youth teams, Fagundez made the switch to personal tutors and online classes during his sophomore year when he was integrated into the first team. Eventually he transferred to Goodrich Academy to complete both his junior and senior year course-loads simultaneously through evening classes and independent study.
Oh, and he also found time to register 21 goals and 13 assists in 70 appearances with the Revolution.
“I don’t know how he did it,” said teammate Andrew Farrell, who recently re-enrolled in classes at the University of Louisville as he aims to complete his college degree. “It’s pretty incredible. It’s a testament to him and how hard he works on the field, but also off the field.”
From the moment Fagundez signed with the Revolution, both the player and organization stressed the importance of his continuing education with the goal of attaining a high school diploma. It required careful planning and long hours – Fagundez often completed homework between double training sessions while the Revs were on preseason trips – but it was always with the best interests of the player in mind.
“I think the plan was laid out, he followed it, and that’s really important for an organization to take care of players,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “If you just sign a player and don’t have him graduate from high school, I think you’re doing a disservice. I credit (General Manager) Michael Burns and the entire organization that signed him to put the plan into play.”
Credit is also due, of course, to Fagundez, who essentially had a full-time job (with travel) throughout his entire high school career. By all accounts, he struck the perfect balance, never allowing his school requirements to interfere with what he needed to accomplish on the field, or vice versa.
In fact, Fagundez made it easy to forget that he was still a high school student, impressing with both his professional demeanor amongst much older teammates and his stellar play on the field.
“It’s never really affected his first-team preparation or his approach to the game,” Heaps said of Fagundez’s coursework. “I think that speaks well of his maturity as a person. Not often do you find a 19-year-old kid that fits into a locker room setting with 28- or 29-year-old men.
“Diego can carry on with anyone. I think it says a lot about his social maturity. And then finishing school is never easy, so I applaud him and his ability to do that.”
All that’s left now is for Fagundez to walk across the stage on Thursday night and receive his diploma, which he’ll proudly display alongside his myriad soccer awards. Family and friends will be in attendance to watch him complete the journey, but what about his teammates?
“I would think we’d make a huge scene, so I don’t think he wants us there,” Kelyn Rowe said with a laugh. “But we’ll definitely have something for him in the locker room.”