You are here

Soccer standout relied on DII ‘balance’ for better life

By Erica Rath

For NCAA.org

Jamaica is known as a vacation destination for many, but it’s home for former Caldwell College soccer standout Nicholas Harriott.

Behind the forefront of Jamaica’s beautiful beaches and four-star resorts is Spanish Town, an area that has the country’s highest crime rates and has been stricken by decades of extreme poverty.Though his house is now located in the northeast United States, Spanish Town will forever be Harriott’s home. From a young age, Harriott envisioned a life beyond the streets of his Caribbean neighborhood. Harriott’s talents on the pitch opened that door.

He made sure to attend the best high school in Jamaica in order to enroll in a school overseas. Using his academic and soccer success as a selling point, a Jamaican coach pointed Harriott in the direction of Caldwell College in northeastern New Jersey.

“He told me I should pursue the academic and athletic balance this Division II institution provided,” Harriott said.

That summer, Harriott took a long flight up the eastern seaboard to New Jersey and met with several members of Caldwell’s soccer program. The soccer setting at Caldwell was much different than the dusty lots on which Harriott learned the game, but the team already had several players from Jamaica on its roster.

Harriott left New Jersey sensing a natural fit. As far as he was concerned, soccer in New Jersey was the same as soccer in Jamaica.

And Harriott thrived once he got there for good. From 2004 to 2008, Harriott led the Cougars to 47 victories, the most in a four-year period in the team’s history. As a midfielder, he started 37 games and earned numerous accolades.

However, his impressive accomplishments did not end at the goal line. In fact, some of his greatest feats came inside the biology department at Caldwell.

When Harriott graduated in 2008, he had recorded a perfect 4.0 grade-point average in Caldwell’s challenging biology curriculum. The accomplishment resulted in Harriott being named the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference’s Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Coming from a difficult background, Harriott was driven to make something of his time in college. Caldwell sports information director Matt McLagan, who also served as an assistant coach during Harriott’s tenure with the Cougars, remembered teammates being concerned for Harriott’s safety when he would return to Jamaica for visits.

“Nicholas is the kind of student-athlete who was determined to make the most of his opportunities at Caldwell, and he has taken that education and made a new life for himself in New Jersey,” McLagan said.

Harriott was a three-time member of the CACC All-Academic Team and a third-team Academic All-American in 2007. He also served as president of Caldwell’s Tri-Beta Biology Honor Society and International Student Association.

After graduation, Harriott and his college sweetheart married and recently gave birth to their first son. He currently works as a microbiology supervisor at SGS U.S. Testing Facility in Fairfield, N.J., the world’s top testing and verification company that performs testing for high-profile pharmaceutical companies.

“I knew that seizing the educational opportunities opened by my athletic abilities would put me in a position for lifelong success,” Harriott said. “I also knew that the education Caldwell provided could help me better my community back in Jamaica.

“I come from a very poor background, and growing up in the inner-city in Jamaica I was impacted by the constant violence that surrounded me. From an early age, I always aspired to do more for myself and my community.”

Today, Harriott visits his homeland at least once a year, where his mother and younger siblings still live. One of Harriott’s brothers saw Nicholas’ success and followed in his footsteps, currently attending college in New Jersey.

“My mom is my role model,” Harriott said. “Being a single mom and raising five kids on her own was the motivation I needed to go out and better myself.”

Soccer remains a huge part of Harriott’s life. He has coached youth clubs in New Jersey and hopes to grow youth programs in Jamaica as well.

“I am a fervent believer in using sports,” Harriott said. “That’s one thing I want to bring back home, to try to build more youth programs. So instead of pursuing a life of crime, we need to show kids that if they put their minds to it, they can accomplish more through athletics opportunities.”