Rowdies forward Zak Boggs (far left) leads the pack during a team practice on Thursday.

Rowdies forward Boggs looking to rise on both soccer, medical field

Veteran's unique path leads him back to a familiar spot

PETERSBURG, Fla. – Zak Boggs has fallen in love with the game of soccer all over again.

The 28-year-old Tampa Bay Rowdies forward returned to the area this season, where he spent part of his undergraduate career as a former member of the University of South Florida Bulls.

Accepting a Fulbright scholarship from Leicester University in 2012 while with the New England Revolution of MLS, the former second-round pick is far from ordinary, pursuing his dreams of professional soccer and working in medicine at the same time.

Boggs’ exit from New England was less than ideal, with the dynamic attacker nursing an injury and adjusting to life under new head coach Jay Heaps, when he received word of his scholarship offer.

“I was really up front with New England, and right as soon as I found out I told them, ‘I want to let you know from my mouth so you don’t find out from an outside source,’ and the next day they said they didn’t want me there anymore,” Boggs said at the team’s practice facility.  “So you can imagine what that’s like, and then they had a buyout clause that was insulting, so I decided to stay, knowing that my employers didn’t really want me there, that was difficult.”

The midfielder finished his master’s degree in Cancer Cell and Molecular Biology while playing in the Leicestershire Futsal League, reversing the stigma that he’s leaving the game for good. After leaving the Revolution, the team-issued press release stated that he had retired, something Boggs noted is not the case.

“When they say, ‘he’s retiring, he’s retiring’ and I tried to say, ‘no, why would you say that?’ And it had everything to do with severance and stuff like that,” he said. “I’m not really sure quite why they said that to this day, so I’ve been fighting that ever since.  I think I was 25 at the time, so there was no reason for me to retire. I had two good seasons and I was only going up.  It is what it is.”

The 2011 MLS Humanitarian of the Year is a role model for Tampa’s young players, even taking rookie housemate Marquez Fernandez under his wing. Boggs’ situation is vastly improved, a process that started while still overseas.

“After the situation in New England in which there were some dark days, I’m not going to lie, it just got me to love it again,” Boggs said about his time in Leicester. “Just playing for the fun of it, being with the guys, playing to have fun, with no worries, no cares.”

Boggs continues to look at pursuing medical work on top of playing the sport. While unsure in what medical capacity he wants to work in after his playing career, Boggs’ current focus continues to be on working as hard as he can, letting the rest sort itself out.

“There’s been a lot of growth. I’m a believer that things happen for a reason, so I just keep plugging, and do what I always do. I don’t change, that’s the one thing I can control.”

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