ATTLEBORO — After two seasons with the Michigan State Univsersity men’s soccer team, Attleboro’s Nick Woodruff has become the first-ever “home grown” defender to be signed to a contract by the New England Revolution organization.
“I’ve been involved with the Revolution since I was 14 years old, it’s always been my goal, my dream to play professional soccer,” said Woodruff, a 2017 graduate of Bishop Feehan High, after signing a contract with the New England Revolution II, a United Soccer League team which will begin its inaugural season.
Woodruff was one of four players signed by the Revolution II, joining midfielder Mayele Malango (UMass-Lowell), forward Connor Presley (USL’s Loudon FC) and defender Collin Verfurth (Virginia Tech).
The 21-year-old Woodruff returns to his New England roots after three total years with the Michigan State program after being an NCAA red-shirt freshman during his first season in Lansing.
Woodruff played four seasons with the New England Revolution Academy while attending Bishop Feehan High.
“I just decided that it was the right step to take,” Woodruff said of signing with the Revolution II. “Being my home team, having played in the academy, and after talking with the Revolution over the past few weeks, they have a path for me.”
The 6-foot-2 Woodruff appeared in 27 matches with 24 starting assignments over two seasons with the Spartans. He started 17 matches for Michigan State (3-12-3) this season as the Spartans’ Woodruff-led defense limited foes to just 12 shots per match en route to the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament.
“Nick has been a part of, and contributed to some of, our most successful years here,” Michigan State coach Damon Rensing said. “We are grateful for the blood, sweat and tears Nick gave more than two years to Michigan State soccer.
“We are extremely excited and happy for Nick,” Rensing added. “The New England Revolution has a storied history in the MLS, and one of, if not the most successful coaches (Bruce Arena) in U.S. soccer history. For Nick to have the opportunity to be a part of that is special. On behalf of the entire Michigan State soccer family, we want to wish Nick the best and look forward to following his career.”
Woodruff scored one goal and had one assist during the Spartans’ run to the 2018 NCAA College Cup as a freshman.
“There was nothing that was urging me to leave Michigan State,” Woodruff said. “I’m leaving a full ride (scholarship), but this was something that I wanted to do,” Woodruff added, indicating that he will complete his academic workload online.
“Without a doubt, playing at Michigan State and in the Big Ten improved me as a soccer player,” Woodruff said. “It’s the hardest conference in the country — it’s the most physical and most demanding. Whether you were playing a team with a better record or a team with a worse record, there were always close games.”
Woodruff played his club soccer with the Revolutionary Academy from 2012-2017, starting 105 of the 118 matches in which he participated with the Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18 team levels of competition. In addition, he trained with the Under-23 developmental team and with the MLS franchise on numerous occasions.
”Everything kind of fit into place,” Woodruff said of concluding his collegiate season and then being on the radar of the Revolution for its USL team.
Woodruff did not play one match for Bishop Feehan during his four years as a Shamrock, preferring to develop his game with the Revolution Academy.
”Really, no one knew what I was doing during that time, going up to Foxboro, training and playing with the Academy teams,” Woodruff said. “Then I committed to Michigan State and people started to take notice.”
Woodruff sat out his first season with Michigan State, terming the process, “a learning year.”
He captained the Revolution Academy’s Under-16 team in 2014-15, which participated in the Generation Adidas Cup series, with Woodruff playing every minute of every match. That season, Woodruff was the recipient of the Revolution Academy’s “Minute Man of the Year” award for his consistency.
”We are pleased to be adding players from a variety of backgrounds, which we hope will help each of the players on our roster develop and grow,” Revolution’s USL club coach Clint Peay said. “As we continue making strides in the build up to our inaugural season, we are proud and excited to welcome these four young players.”
During the 2015-16 season, Woodruff made 24 appearances for New England’s Under-18 team. He made 13 starts during the 2016-17 season for the Under-18 team. While participating in three U.S. Soccer training centers, Woodruff was ranked among the top 100 players nationally by CollegeSoccerNews.com.
”Identifying and securing promising young players is one key part of our multifaceted approach to constructing the second team roster,” Revolution Academy Technical Director Curt Onalfo said. “Welcoming these four talented players as the first Revolution II signings marks an exciting milestone for the club as we continue to enhance the development pathway in New England.”
It will a conveniently short drive from the family home in Attleboro up Route One to the Revolution’s training facility for Woodruff.
“This is how all of the MLS teams do it now, signing young players to USL contracts,” Woodruff said of the development process, similar to baseball players moving up the minor league ladder. “It was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up and to be the first defender selected as a home-grown player is quite an honor too.”