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Net Results

Nigerian soccer player who chose college over the pros still holds goals and points records 40 years later

With his pedigree as a member of the Nigerian national soccer team headed for the 1976 Montreal Olympics, big things were expected of Thompson Usiyan when he arrived at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. Nearly 40 years later, his 109 goals and 255 points in just 49 games at Appalachian State have never come close to being matched.

Usiyan did not play in the Olympic Games after Nigeria joined the 28-country boycott in response to the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to ban New Zealand for its 1976 rugby tour of apartheid-era South Africa. However, he was still a coveted recruit when he expressed his desire to eschew professional soccer and go to college.

“I knew it would be another four years before I would have a chance to be part of another Olympic team, and I wanted to use those four years to get a degree,” Usiyan said.

“This was a way to get an education, and he saw that, and he took that,” former Appalachian State head coach Hank Steinbrecher said. “He could have said to hell with my education, I’m going to go play in the Premier League – because he was good enough, but the educational aspect was very important to him.”

Steinbrecher later became the CEO/secretary general of U.S. Soccer (1990-2000), where he helped run the 1994 World Cup in the United States and managed the country’s national teams. He took with him the memories of watching Usiyan play.

“He was so fast and so soft, you really only knew he was there when he blew by you,” Steinbrecher said. “I’ve seen athletes at the highest level of the game, and Thompson not only had the ability to be at that level, but to be really focused and dedicated to a training regimen. With his mental discipline and incredible skill level, it’s no wonder that his records have lasted this long.”

In addition to his cumulative totals, Usiyan holds the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championship record for goals in a game with seven against George Washington University during the 1978 tournament. A three-time Southern Conference Player of the Year (1977, 1978, 1980), Usiyan led the Mountaineers to a record of 44-12-3 (24-0-0 in the Southern Conference) with NCAA tournament appearances in 1977, 1978 and 1980.

Usiyan continued to put his stamp on the game as a 14-year pro in North America. He started his career for Montreal in the North American Soccer League before transitioning to the indoor game, where he recorded more than 300 career goals. During that time, he kept his sights on his post-playing career as he earned his accounting degree from Appalachian State in 1986.

“It was very, very difficult to get employed. For one reason or another, I was underqualified or had a lack of experience,” Usiyan said. “I needed something that I could do that was seasonal. The only company with that kind of flex time was H&R Block. They gave me the opportunity to learn all I could during my transitional period.”

After 15 years with H&R Block, he opened his own company, Usiyan Tax Service, in 2007 in the San Diego area.

“It goes back to hard work, believing in yourself and having a goal,” Usiyan said. “I wasn’t looking for the money. I was looking for experience and really put all of my effort learning what it takes to be self-employed.”

While he doesn’t go out of his way to highlight his records, they will continue to come up in his second career as clients find online that their tax consultant is the top goal-scorer Division I men’s soccer has ever known.

“He was just that special,” Steinbrecher said. “A powerful, powerful player; hard worker; studious guy. He’s the best student-athlete I’ve ever known.”

Thompson Usiyan Division I Records

POINTS* scored:
Season: 108 - Thompson Usiyan, Appalachian St., 1980 (17 games)
Career: 255 - Thompson Usiyan, Appalachian St., 1977-80 (49 games)

Season: 6.35 - Thompson Usiyan, Appalachian St., 1980 (108 in 17 games)
Career (Min. 100 Points): 5.20 - Thompson Usiyan, Appalachian St., 1977-80 (255 in 49 games)

GOALS scored:
Season: 46 - Thompson Usiyan, Appalachian St., 1980 (17 games)
Career: 109 - Thompson Usiyan, Appalachian St., 1977-80 (49 games)

Season: 2.71 - Thompson Usiyan, Appalachian St., 1980 (46 in 17 games)

DI Championship, Tournament GOALS scored in a GAME:
7 - Thompson Usiyan, Appalachian St. (9) vs. George Washington (3), 1978.

*1 point per assist; 2 points per goal

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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