Wake Forest’s Harkes recognized as nation’s top college soccer player – Winston

Ian Harkes, one of the best soccer players in Wake Forest history, added to his legacy by winning the Hermann Trophy on Friday night.

The announcement was made in St. Louis by the Missouri Athletic Club.

The Hermann Trophy, college soccer’s version of the Heisman Trophy, is awarded yearly to the best soccer player in the country.

Harkes, a senior midfielder who helped the Deacons to the NCAA championship game, is the second Wake Forest player to win the award. Marcus Tracy, who was a part of the 2007 national championship team, won the award in 2008.

Harkes’ father, John, a former star at Virginia, won the award in 1987. They are the first father-son winners.

“This is a huge honor,” Harkes said in a short speech afterward receiving the award. “It’s very humbling to be in the same category, and I see how many goals they scored and I had a career-high five goals. It puts you really in check.”

Harkes beat out Albert Ruiz of Florida Gulf Coast and Gordon Wild of Maryland, who were the other finalists. Ruiz and Wild were the top two goal scorers in the country this season.

What made Harkes so valuable was his style of play at the midfield fit right in with coach Bobby Muuss’ attack the last two seasons. And before Muuss arrived, Harkes was just as effective in a slightly different style playing two years for coach Jay Vidovich.

As he has been throughout his career at Wake Forest, Harkes was the consummate team player and made sure to thank his teammates.

“I want to thank my parents for giving me the inspiration to play this game and my grandfather who came to all my games and my sisters who really supported me,” Harkes said in the speech that was broadcast online. “And any success I’ve had is because of my teammates, so I want to thank them as well.”

Jacori Hayes, another of the senior leaders for the Deacons, said Harkes was more than just a team captain.

“Ian has been a great player and a great friend to me and all the guys on the team these past four years,” Hayes said. “It’s funny, we started as rivals in high school to now friends and teammates at Wake Forest. I want to say congratulations on this huge achievement and wish him the best in his professional career.”

The Deacons went 19-3-3 this past season, winning the Atlantic Division of the ACC and the ACC tournament, the first time that’s been done by the Deacons since 1989.

The Deacons didn’t miss a beat in the NCAA tournament, advancing to the College Cup for the first time since 2009.

The Deacons lost 5-4 on penalty kicks in the championship game to Stanford. In the semifinal of the College Cup, Harkes scored the game-winner, taking a beautiful pass from Jon Bakero to deliver the decider a 2-1 win over Denver.

Muuss, who flew to St. Louis to be with Harkes when the announcement was made, talked earlier in the season about how valuable Harkes is to the Deacons.

“Ian makes us go,” Muuss said. “With his professionalism and the way he trains and the way he coaches on the field to make the guys around him better each day, he has been a treat to watch.”

It was a bit of a surprise when Harkes decided not to go to Virginia to follow in the footsteps of his father. Muuss said Harkes not only embraced his time at Wake Forest, he carved out a legendary career.

“Ian has paved his own way, and Ian’s dad would tell you that, as well,” Muuss said earlier this season. “Ian came to Wake Forest and could have gone to Virginia, but over four years, he’s continued to get better. And nobody could control that other than Ian, so he’s done a great job of that.”

Harkes, the ACC tournament MVP and the ACC midfielder of the year, scored five goals, four of them game-winners, and he added four assists, but his decision making in the midfield is something Muuss said set him apart from other players in the country.

Harkes, who was born in Derby, England, was All-ACC on the first or second team all four seasons at Wake Forest and was a constant on the All-ACC Academic Team.

Harkes had an outstanding career at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C., before he came to Wake Forest before the 2013 season as one of the top recruits brought in by Vidovich. During his four seasons, the Deacons combined to go 56-19-12 as he scored nine career goals with 18 assists.

College Football Playoff fans: Welcome to the pirate life

11:02 PM ET

There is one iconic piece to Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium known to just about every football fan who has tuned in to watch past Super Bowls or Bucs games, or bowl games for that matter.

Now it’s time for fans attending Tampa, Florida’s first college football national championship game to get acquainted with that pirate life.

Err, pirate ship.

Though the 103-foot, 43-ton ship is off-limits to the general public and will not fire off any cannons when No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson play Monday night in the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by ATT (8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App), its presence alone has spurred some creativity from the host city and playoff organizers.

That in itself is a major victory because nearly two decades ago, the ship itself came close to walking the plank. First, a little history. Raymond James Stadium opened in 1998 with the $3 million pirate ship lording over the north end zone as its centerpiece in Buccaneer Cove — a symbol not only for the Tampa Bay NFL team but also for the legacies of pirates both real and fictional throughout Tampa Bay’s history.

When it came time for the stadium to host its first Super Bowl in 2001, the NFL looked at the real estate the pirate ship took up and created a plan to generate more money in ticket sales. It wanted the ship to be temporarily removed to make way for up to 1,300 more seats.

The Bucs organization refused, and the NFL relented. So they reached a compromise. The pirate deck that goes around the ship would be temporarily removed to make room for extra seats. It would be a less painstaking process while also preserving the ship that makes Raymond James Stadium so distinct.

This model worked so well that it was used again when the stadium hosted the Super Bowl in 2009 and is being used now for the national championship game. An extra 6,000 seats were brought in and added to both end zones. In the north end zone, they are configured around the pirate ship, exactly the same way as 2001.

There is one key difference, though. The sails on the pirate ship will be replaced with new sails that have the College Football Playoff logo on them. ESPN will also use the pirate ship as part of its set during live coverage.

But wait, there’s more. The Tampa Bay Sports Commission and College Football Playoff organizers decided they wanted one more element to tie everything together. On Wednesday, the Jose Gaspar II sailed into town along the Tampa Riverwalk and docked in the middle of the harbor for the duration of championship weekend.

The pirate ship inside the stadium was modeled after this particular ship, which usually leads a flotilla simulating a pirate invasion during Tampa’s annual Gasparilla Festival, celebrating the area’s history and the legend of pirate Jose Gaspar.

“We were looking at a way to play to the strengths of this market, to take advantage of the water and with the history and tradition of the Gasparilla ship here in Tampa, we’re glad to bring that together,” said Michael Kelly, chief operating officer for the College Football Playoff. “Seeing the Gasparilla ship in the middle of the basin and the stadium pirate ship that’s there, it’s a unique feature of the stadium. It does differentiate that building from pretty much any other. You know it’s a Tampa game when you see it there.”

It’s believed to be the first time the Gasparilla ship has been used in conjunction with a sporting event in town. But it’s not the first time another group using the stadium has celebrated the city’s pirate history.

In 2014, the stadium hosted the International Indian Film Academy Awards, or the Bollywood Oscars as they are more commonly known. For their show-stopping opening number, the show’s producers decided they wanted their stars to perform on a float of a Gasparilla ship (normally used during the Gasparilla parade).

Stadium officials realized the height and width of the float would be a problem for entry onto the field, so they had to make adjustments to the awning cover over one tunnel to make room. They practiced getting the float onto the field in the days leading up to the show. The performance itself was seamless.

That’s exactly what CFP organizers are hoping for, too. Hundreds of people are working around the clock at the stadium to ensure everything will be perfect for Monday. An entirely new field was laid down immediately after the Outback Bowl ended Monday; CFP and 2017 banners were placed on the exterior of the stadium and behind the brand-new scoreboards; all the Tampa Bay Bucs signage inside the stadium has been wrapped in CFP graphics and logos.

Plenty more work was done to transform Tampa Bay into college football central. About the only thing that remains the same is the pirate ship.

Aye, aye, as it should.