To succeed as a professional soccer player one must maintain a relentless worth ethic paired with minimal down time. However, Atlanta United midfielder Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu gives a new meaning to the term ‘no days off.’
Upon being drafted by Atlanta in the third round of the 2017 Major League Soccer SuperDraft, the Harvard University product knew a daunting task lay ahead. Aside from securing a roster spot, Wheeler-Omiunu was one semester away from receiving his degree in economics from the Ivy League school, and earning his diploma was never in doubt.
“Education is very important to me and my family,” Wheeler-Omiunu said. “It’s not something that I just accept, it’s something that I own and I firmly believe that as well. When soccer ends for me, whenever that is, it’s my education that’s going to carry me through the majority of my life.”
Macroeconomic theory, economics of discontinuous change and two independent studies stood in the way of him and his Harvard degree. Well, those four courses coupled with earning a spot on Atlanta United’s roster.
“It was really difficult,” he said. “It became very mentally taxing. I never felt like I had a mental break. You have to make sure you’re dialed in 100 percent when you’re [at training] and when I go home I’d like to nap but I can’t. I have to do work.”
Early in preseason training, Wheeler-Omiunu earned his place on the team and signed a professional contract with Atlanta United on February 10. Then the work began in earnest.
Wheeler-Omiunu estimated he dedicated eight hours a day to soccer and another four to five hours a day to his studies. He would communicate with his professors via email and phone calls while keeping up with lectures through videos and slides which were posted online.
Most of his coursework could be done remotely, but for select exams, midterms and finals Wheeler-Omiunu had to fly back to the Massachusetts campus.
- WATCH: Follow along at training with Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu in our Mic'd Up series
- WATCH: Get to know Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu better in the Atlanta United barber shop
After his final exam, which lasted three hours, he flew back to Atlanta and waited three days to receive his final grades. To occupy his mind, he went to Ikea and built a bookshelf.
Three days later he was a Harvard graduate, and at last, a day of self-indulgence was promptly earned.
“I was talking to my roommate Miles [Robinson] and I was like, ‘this must be what your day is like every day.’ I went to TopGolf in the morning. Then I came home and baked banana bread for the first time in my life, I made pasta salad just to eat whenever I want. I cooked myself a steak. It was a great day.”
Wheeler-Omiunu mentioned public office as something he could pursue with his degree post-soccer, but for now he is excited to focus solely on Atlanta United.
“When I come [to the training ground] I can focus 100 percent of the time, no mental breaks, and make sure that I get everything out of it and make sure that I give everything for my team.”