Saint Leo University was shaken this summer when soccer player Jules Verdin, freshman, died during a hiking accident in Switzerland. Verdin was 19 years old.
The 2014 Sunshine State Conference Freshman of the Year, Verdin was a midfielder for the Lions, tallying 2 goals and 2 assists, while playing in all 18 games that season, starting 16 of them.
Born in Tongeren, Belgium, Verdin came to Saint Leo through the assistance of Overboarder, a group that helps foreign athletes attain scholarships to universities in the United States.
“Jules had several different offers from very nice universities. He ended up choosing Saint Leo as he really felt a connection with the coaches and the university,” said Dennis Mertens, CEO of Overboarder. “He found everything he was looking for. A couple weeks after his arrival he told me how much he enjoyed it there.”
Francis X. Reidy, Director of Athletics for Saint Leo, spoke with saintleolions.com about the accident.
“The hearts of everyone in the Saint Leo University family go out to Jules’ family and his teammates as they deal with this news,” said Reidy. “The death of someone so young is especially tragic, and we will do all we can to support his friends, teammates, and family members through this terrible time.”
Keith Fulk, head coach of the men’s soccer team at Saint Leo, talked about the dedication Verdin had.
“The passion that he had and the love of the game that he had was something second to none,” said Fulk. “We heard all of these crazy stories that I didn’t know about when he was here. He lived over here in Sweetwater and he would get up at 4 in the morning and jog over here and get a bag of balls in our closet and he would start shooting at the goal at about 5 in the morning until about 7.”
Fulk was also impressed by Verdin’s intelligence.
“His knowledge for the game was fantastic. He was a special player that wanted to play the game the right way,” said Fulk.
What stuck out to the head coach the most, however, was the type of person Verdin was off of the field.
“He loved life. He really enjoyed just everything. If he went to the cafeteria with the kids he just brought a smile to your face and things like that,” said Fulk.
Fulk, who also runs summer soccer camps, released a statement at the time of the accident online.
“At this time our thoughts and prayers go out to the Verdin family and Jules’ many friends and teammates as they mourn his sudden and tragic loss,” said keithfulksoccer.com.
It is clear Verdin will be missed, both on the field and off of it. Along with winning the Conference Freshman of the Year award, Verdin was also selected to the Second Team All- SSC, confirming the talents of a special player.
The Lions’ home opener is on Sept. 12, at 7 p.m., against Warner University, where the team plans to honor Verdin with a pregame ceremony.