By Giancarlo Santoro, Guest Writer

After serving in the United States Army for more than nine years, first-year Jeremy Dornbusch has had to contend with a different kind of battle in his first year at Pacific Lutheran University.

Dornbusch not only plays soccer, but he also played football while in high school. His 63-yard field goal set the record for the longest field goal in his high school's history. Photo courtesy of PLU Athletics.
First-year Jeremy Dornbusch not only plays soccer, but he also played football while in high school. His 63-yard field goal set the record for the longest field goal in his high school’s history. Photo courtesy of PLU Athletics.

Upon arriving on campus back in August, it would be hard to blame anyone for mistaking Dornbusch as a new coach. Born in Titusville, Fla. on July 24, 1983, Dornbusch is more than 12 years older than some of the incoming first-years. With a full beard and both arms completely tattooed, he looks the part of a soldier.

Despite his age and appearance, the reality is that Dornbusch came to PLU to play soccer and get an education, just like the rest of the returning and incoming players.

“I came here for the soccer program and the academic notoriety that PLU has with the education you receive,” Dornbusch said. “I know a prior alumnus, Andrew Hyres, who played soccer here, and he spoke with me many times about PLU, and I decided it would be a good fit for me.”

Coming into training camp, Dornbush was set to take the vacant starting role up front and start banging in the goals, but after falling awkwardly on his right knee during the first week of camp, he received the worst news an athlete can get: an ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) tear.

“Tearing my ACL upon arriving was devastating and definitely one of the hardest things that has happened in my soccer career,” Dornbusch said. “Having left the Army life that I’ve known for eight years to continue my dream of playing soccer full time, you never think about those injuries happening to you.”

Dornbusch’s fellow teammate and goalkeeper, senior Joe Rayburn, echoed the sentiment, saying it was disappointing knowing he would never get the chance to play with Dornbusch.

“I was frustrated in general,” Rayburn said. “Not at Jeremy [Dornbusch] of course, but at the situation, because I felt like he didn’t deserve it considering how hard he works.”

A year after receiving the silver medal at the 2012 Military World Cup in Azerbaijan, Dornbusch originally came in with the goal to win the Northwest Conference and continue on to take a shot at winning the Division III National Tournament. With his season over, however, Dornbusch has had to change his mentality and has become a part of the coaching staff during his recovery.

“I came in with a leadership mentality to use my experiences that I’ve been through in life, the Army and soccer, to lead,” Dornbusch said, who played with professional and semi-professional caliber players during his time with the All-Army soccer team.

“I see myself as being a mentor to players on the team, and I feel being able to coach has made an impact in a positive way.”

Like the rest of the team, PLU men’s soccer head coach John Yorke, agreed that losing Dornbusch to injury was hard to swallow. On the other hand, he said he has been happy with Dornbusch’s involvement this season.

“Jeremy [Dornbusch] is a guy that if he wasn’t injured he would definitely be helping us on the field, and [he] has been very involved in our success this year,” Yorke said.

Since being sidelined, Dornbusch has been working hard to rebuild mobility in his knee. Five days after surgery, he was already bending his knee at a 90-degree angle, a goal for any person following ACL surgery.

Until he can be back on the field, Dornbusch will spend his time in the classroom where he is majoring in kinesiology and minoring in athletic training. Although the transition from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan to studying chemistry and exercise science in Parkland, Wash. has been strange, Dornbusch said he has adjusted well.

“It’s a little different returning to the classroom setting and being on a college campus again,” Dornbusch said, who spent a year at Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga. after graduating high school.

“Sometimes I feel out of place, but then I realize that it’s no different being around college students because it’s what I worked with everyday in the military.”

If things go according to plan with soccer and academics, Dornbusch hopes to be coach one day and open his own Crossfit gym.

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