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On the ball in business

Augustana soccer student-athlete puts entrepreneurial skills to use on campus

By Kayci Woodley

Division III student-athlete Michael Buric is an entrepreneur in every sense of the word. Organizing, managing and taking risks are part of his daily life, and have been since high school. 

Buric’s professionalism off the field parallels his leadership and managerial skills on the pitch. Buric plays for the Augustana Vikings soccer team in Rock Island, Ill., where he’s been a three-year starter.

A native of Scottsdale, Ariz., Buric grew up playing for the No. 1 club soccer team in the state and dreamed of playing at the collegiate level. But after breaking both of his feet the summer between his junior and senior year of high school, that seemed out of reach.

Buric broke one foot during a tournament in California that summer, making a sprint back on defense. Hopping to his wheelchair five weeks later, he broke the other.

“The first break was an accident, and I say the second was an act of God,” said Michael’s father John, who also attended Augustana. “That just doesn’t happen. I told him to wait a year and see what doors open for you.”

But Michael was already opening doors – to Maseratis, Porsches and Jaguars. As soon as he got his driver’s license, Buric started his own auto-detailing business. With a website, business cards and 50 clients, he ran Executive Auto Detailing out of his parents’ six-car garage. One year off from a highly competitive and demanding club soccer career allowed him to focus on his other passion – automobiles.

“When I broke my feet and couldn’t play soccer anymore it pushed me to focus on the business,” Buric said. “I was out on one of those push scooters you can kneel on and scoot around, but I was still doing a ton of business and keeping clients happy even when I was disabled.”

Hot Wheels cars and the Barrett-Jackson auto auction were as much a part of Buric’s childhood as sweaty shin guards and cloddy cleats. Headquartered in his hometown, the first time Buric went to the auction was in first grade. His father felt the best way for his two sons to learn about business and capital was through the annual auction, where automobiles are viewed as three-dimensional art.

“My dad supported my interest in cars and always expressed the importance of taking pride in ownership and taking care of your vehicle, so I really liked that and it carried over into my business.”

Tom Osselaer, chief financial officer for Suburban Mortgage financial services, is a longtime customer at Executive Auto Detailing. A neighbor of the Buric’s, Osselaer couldn’t help but notice the only teenager up before noon on weekends, working on cars in the Arizona heat.

“He worked so hard and had this amazing dedication,” Osselaer said. “I tend to be very keyed in on how young people present themselves and he had a very intense desire to understand and be a part of the business world before most young people are even beginning to think about it.”

Osselaer was so impressed by Buric’s polite demeanor and ability to engage in conversation that he wanted to offer him an internship. But another organization beat him to the punch.

Just as clients handed over keys to Mercedes and BMWs, U-Haul is hitching Buric to its car rental program. Last summer he returned to Arizona for a marketing internship at the U-Haul headquarters in Phoenix and is now expanding the Car Share program at Augustana.

Car Share provides convenient access to vehicles at an affordable price for college students. At Augustana, Buric plans to bring two vehicles to the campus of 2,500, with designated parking spots and GPS navigation systems. Insurance, gas and maintenance are all included in the hourly rate, and students 18 and up can create an account online to reserve a car.

“At Augustana, a lot of students bring their cars to campus, and parking is expensive,” Buric said. “The great thing about Car Share is students don’t have to maintain the cars or fuel them up. The only cost is a low hourly rate.”

Buric handled social media, image design, slogans and art for Car Share during his internship and used that experience to spread the word on campus about the program. Having visited Executive Auto Detailing, teammate Matt Shipon sees the same professionalism from Buric on the field. 

“There’s no doubt in my mind that he will win the ball because of his overall build and dedication,” Shipon said. “He’s always in the gym staying in shape and eating well and it reflects in his play. He’s a standout person in our defense, and when I look other teams’ center backs I really don’t see any comparison to him.”

As a sophomore last season, Buric was a second-team College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin performer and started all but one game for the Vikings. At 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, Buric’s presence intimidates opposing forwards. But his direct leadership skills and effort allow Augustana teammates to heighten their play – and their studies.  

“Any opportunity that he has to excel or to become better in his field, he’s going to take it,” said Augustana head coach Brenton Joseph. “Whether it’s joining the business club or simply doing well in classes, he knows exactly what he wants to get out of Augustana so everything he does is to prepare him for that next step.”

Buric has received recent media attention from a local newspaper and television station, which he also sees as an opportunity to better market himself. While some college student-athletes shy away from media attention, Buric embraces it.

“I have always been motivated and ambitious when it comes to work or soccer,” Buric said. “I enjoy exploring new opportunities and expanding my horizons.”