Lewis Rathbone is goals. We mean that in more ways than one. He simply seems to be having way too much fun while playing the sport he was groomed to love.
What about life after college, Lewis? “I’m not even thinking about that,” says the Manchester, England, native. “I’m just enjoying every minute.”
Fair enough. Rathbone is in the midst of a goal-scoring tear for a Concordia men’s soccer team with the longest unbeaten run in program history. The Bulldogs stand at 8-0-1 following their 6-0 rout over Mount Marty. Rathbone got into the act by finding the back of the net for the fifth-straight game. His 10 goals on the year have shattered a career high as the ninth highest total for any player in the NAIA this season.
It appears head coach Jason Weides’ decision to move Rathbone into more of an attacking role has paid off for undefeated Concordia. Weides and his staff always felt like Rathbone had it in him to be a proficient goal scorer. This year’s mix of players allowed them to unleash him.
“In the past we needed him in a little deeper position with more of a defensive responsibility,” Weides said. “We just really needed him in that role. We certainly thought he could be better used higher up the field. We wanted him to understand, that was what we needed him for. He bought into that. Looking at his skillsets, we thought he could be more valuable higher up the field in goal scoring positons.”
The wide smiles that come after his frequent goals help paint the picture of a thriving athlete realizing his full potential. The mild mannered Rathbone is having just as much fun off the field. He lives in a house near campus with teammates Florian Caraballo, Toby Down, Aries Fung, Marcelo Hernandez and Micah Lehenbauer. Between the six, five different countries are represented: Ecuador, England, Hong Kong, Spain and the United States.
The uniqueness of the opportunity and the special nature of having the constant companionship of half a dozen people from different backgrounds is not lost on Rathbone. The transfer from Evergreen Valley College and his fellow housemates were responsible for every single goal during Sunday’s 5-0 win over Dakota Wesleyan. There’s true camaraderie on and off the field.
“It was a good laugh,” Rathbone said. “Everybody was saying we were going to rename the team. We’re really close. We’re around each other all the time. We don’t take that for granted. We’re just going to do everything possible to try and accomplish our goals. It’s exciting. Every day you wake up and it’s a new day. Let’s go and get it.”
‘Let’s go and get it’ seems like an appropriate tagline for Rathbone, who has especially impressed Weides with his competitiveness. A passion and fire for the game can be traced back to Rathbone’s roots. A fan of the beloved hometown Manchester United, Rathbone and the game of soccer were inseparable from an early age.
Said Rathbone of his hometown, “Everyone just loves football, especially in Manchester. Obviously you have the two teams now and big rivalries. It was never forced on me. I just always had a soccer ball at my feet. That’s all I can remember, just going out and always playing. My dad always wanted to play with me, too. It just came natural. I always wanted to play.”
In regards to his family, Lewis is the first to venture to the United States for the opportunity to earn an education and play soccer. Parents Stephen and Louise supported their son’s big dreams of attending college in America. They simply wanted him to make sure it was the right landing spot for him.
In the fall of 2014, Rathbone played alongside Hernandez at Evergreen Valley (Calif.). Recruited by Weides and then assistant Nico Luque, Hernandez was the first to make the journey from California to Nebraska. Hernandez told Rathbone of the positive experiences he enjoyed at Concordia. Hernandez also made a pitch to Weides and company. Rathbone was someone who could help the program grow. Sight unseen, Rathbone agreed to sign at Concordia without even a single campus visit. Both sides were taking a blind leap of faith.
“It worked out perfectly,” said Rathbone, who spoke to Luque nearly every day during the summer before he arrived. “They just really wanted me to come here. That was a massive deal for me. They were excited for me to get started. I can’t respect Nico and Jason enough. They did a lot to get me here.”
The respect is mutual. Rathbone has earned it. He’s a great teammate. He’s a NAIA Scholar-Athlete. Now he’s looking like a first team all-conference type of player for a team hopeful of contending for another GPAC championship. Rathbone tasted a GPAC tournament title in 2015 and now he wants more.
“I would describe him as an immense competitor,” Weides said. “Once you start playing a game or training, he’s an immense competitor. He loves to compete. Off the field, he’s such a mild mannered guy. I think he’s really grown as a leader in the time he’s been here. That’s the change that has helped him the most. He has stepped up into that leadership role. I couldn’t be more proud of how he’s progressed and developed.”
Such leadership qualities will greatly serve the business administration and accounting major in his career aspirations. Rathbone hopes soccer will be part of life after college. That life might also include a profession in the business world. He may even stay in the United States. That seems like something for Lewis Rathbone of the future to worry about.
The here and now is just too much fun not to soak it up. Says Rathbone, “It’s going to be tough to separate from the guys. I have my sole focus on this season. I’ll worry about that when it comes after the season.”