From Newtown High to Wake Forest to pro soccer career, Tracy continues to shine

From Newtown High to Wake Forest to pro soccer career, Tracy continues to shine

Five years, ago, Newtown's Marcus Tracy left for college with a dollar and a dream.

Well, kind of.

Technically, he left with a dream, a $20 bill and a soccer scholarship to Wake Forest.

The free tuition to Wake was the culmination of four incredible years at Newtown High, where he scored 100 career goals.

The $20 were given to him by Betsy Miles, the mother of his childhood best friend and high school soccer teammate, Brian Miles.

Betsy wanted Tracy to buy her a Wake Forest sweatshirt to add to her growing collection of NCAA memorabilia.

"I already had stuff from the different schools that my own kids attended," Miles said. "And our family has been so close with the Tracy's for a long time, so I wanted a Wake Forest shirt to wear around."

And Tracy's dream, though cliche, was genuine.

There are thousands of kids in the world who fantasize of going pro. They dream about being famous and living in the spotlight. There are kids -- right now, at this very second -- shooting hoops in the backyard, shouting out "Jordan" or "Kobe" after each basket.

Tracy, The News-Times Athlete of the Decade, was never like that.

"I never dreamed about becoming a professional athlete," Tracy said. "It's just not something I ever really thought about."

It is, however, something that undoubtedly crossed the minds of his opponents through the years.

Tracy always had the ingredients for success. He was talented, he was humble and he was driven.

And he was really, really fast.

Manchester, the No. 6 seed in the 2004 Class LL boys soccer state tournament, got a first-hand look at that speed when Tracy "came out of nowhere," according to Miles, to score the game-winning goal in the closing seconds of their Class LL quarterfinal match at Newtown.

Tracy, not normally one to show much emotion on-the-field, took off sprinting in celebration.

"We all tried to catch up to celebrate with him, but no one could," Miles said. "The kid was flying. That had to have been the fastest I've ever seen him run."

And that's saying a lot, because Miles, a member of the Newtown outdoor track and field team, was present for the personal sprinting clinic that Tracy put on throughout the spring of 2005.

Tracy, a Class LL soccer state champion, an All-American selection in soccer and an All-State basketball pick, joined track on a whim.

It didn't take long for him to start turning heads.

"I remember being in the infield when he ran the 400 one time," said Newtown athletic director Gregg Simon. "People were in shock. No one was supposed to win a 400 by that much."

Tracy ran a 47.9 that day, the best mark of any Connecticut runner in the past decade.

Tracy could run, he could jump -- Miles once witnessed him "superman" over a 5-foot-10 high-jump pole -- and he was strong, too.

So strong, in fact, that he was the one to carry the water jug from Newtown's locker room to the Nighthawks' bench before his Senior Night soccer game.

"I just thought that was the most amazing thing," Simon said. "You usually get a JV player or a back-up to carry the water jug. And here you have Marcus Tracy -- all-state, all-everything -- carrying it by himself. That was Marcus in a nutshell."

As Miles puts it, there was "nothing that Marcus couldn't do."

Except for one thing: remember Betsy's Wake Forest sweatshirt.

Each time he returned from college to Newtown for winter break, he ran into Betsy.

"Hey Marcus, where's my sweatshirt?" she playfully asked him. "Did you buy me that Wake Forest sweatshirt?"

Each time, he'd be empty-handed.

"I felt bad," Tracy said. "I kept forgetting about it."

No one in Newtown forgot about Tracy, however.

When he came back to visit his alma mater, students frequently approached him for autographs.

It was an inevitable situation, but certainly not one that Tracy relished in.

"Marcus never wanted to take credit for himself," Simon said. "There was a game his senior year that we won 7-0. Marcus must have had three goals and a few assists, so the reporters naturally came up to him after the game. And he said `Don't talk to me, go talk to Rodrigo (DeSouza), go talk to Brian (Miles). Talk to those guys. They played awesome.'"

"He always wanted his teammates to get credit for the success," Simon continued. "That's just the kind of person he is."

There were plenty more autograph sessions -- including one at a Newtown High regular-season boys basketball game that Tracy single-handedly sold out -- following his College Cup MVP in 2007.

And then, when he won the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy in 2008, given out annually to the nation's best college soccer player, and signed a three-year contract with Aalborg BK of Denmark, Tracy was vaulted to superstardom.

There are now kids -- not just at Newtown, but at other schools -- who dream of being just like him.

A few years ago, former News-Times reporter Jim Stout went to Immaculate High for a photo shoot of the boys varsity soccer team.

The JV team was on the field warming up for a game. An Immaculate player stood outside the box and booted the ball toward the net while the others, one-by-one, tried to head it into the goal.

When they successfully did so, they shouted out "Marcus Tracy."

"It was incredible," Stout said. "They were doing the play-by-play pretending to be Marcus Tracy."

"It was pretty telling at the time," he added. "It just showed you how much those kids looked up to him and how well-respected he was."

At just 23-years-old, Tracy has already accomplished things that few professional athletes ever will. His list of personal achievements is a lengthy one. Tracy has no difficulty, however, in picking out what he's most proud of: Wake Forest's 2007 National Championship.

"For me, winning that was bigger than any individual honor I'll ever get," Tracy said. "To share that moment with your teammates and some of your best friends, that's something I always dreamed of."

Following Wake Forest's 2007 National Championship game victory over Ohio State -- the first in program history -- the Demon Deacons were given some material rewards for their championship.

First, there was the College Cup, which each of the players got a chance to hold.

Then, there was a brand-new fleece jacket.

It was a high-quality, black Nike jacket with "Wake Forest Soccer" etched across the back. It was not available to the public, sort of a "players perk."

Shortly after he pioneered Wake Forest's national title run, Tracy returned to Newtown for winter vacation.

He arrived at the Miles house, walked in and tossed Betsy the brand-new fleece jacket.

"She was kind of collecting some interest there over the years," Tracy joked. "I owed it to her."

Betsy says she nearly fell out of her chair.

The jacket was authentic.

It was what the players wear on the sidelines.

It was a gift that the $20 she gave him two-and-a-half years back certainly did not cover.

It was a gesture that sums up what Marcus Tracy is all about.

"Marcus was always the most respectful, most thoughtful, most humble kid," she said. "And I'm happy to say that, over the years, he hasn't changed one bit."