By Jake Knabel, Sports Information Director
With just three more goals, senior forward Aaron Skipworth will take his place among Bulldog men’s soccer greats as the program’s all-time career goals leader. Incredibly, Skipworth’s fabulous collegiate playing career nearly fell flat after just a single semester at Concordia.
The Colorado Springs, Colo., native stood out immediately as a Bulldog, as he collected 11 goals while earning GPAC Second Team All-Conference honors as only a freshman in the fall of 2008. Off the pitch, however, the adjustment from high school to college proved to be too much. Skipworth was forced to leave Concordia in December of 2008 due to his academic performance.
“I was upset. I didn’t do well in my classes. I didn’t transition well from high school academically,” Skipworth said.
Skipworth, originally from El Paso, Texas, retreated to Colorado Springs where he enrolled at a local community college and began full-time work. No longer a member of an organized soccer team, he longed to rejoin his Bulldog teammates.
“I just went home, kind of fell off and maybe gave up,” Skipworth said. “It made me realize everything that I had here (at Concordia).”
He recalls sitting outside near his apartment mired in his gloomy thoughts, praying for the opportunity to be back on scholarship as a student-athlete.
When his phone rang and coach Jason Weides was on the line, he felt like his dreams were again in reach. “[He] calls me out of nowhere one day, and I still had his number saved. I think he just called to see what was up, really.”
The phone call initiated Skipworth’s return to Concordia for the fall 2010 semester. Weides had not given up on a young man who the Bulldog head coach knew to be a smart, confident student-athlete. As long as Skipworth could learn to better manage his time and better apply himself as a student, he would have his chance to again be the player that consistently burned opposing goalkeepers.
Skipworth reenrolled and refocused. He set his sights on earning his degree in May 2013.
Weides noted the change when Skipworth returned. The biology major's grades improved and he found a better balance for school and athletics.
"I think his freshman year it was really about, ‘hey, I want to play soccer collegiately,’" Weides said. "He loved the game, but it was academics and everything else going on in his life that were way, way down the priority list.”
Now in his final soccer season, Skipworth aims to do something special. He sits just two goals shy of Bernie Ochoa’s school record of 31 career goals. To reach that mark, Skipworth, or ‘Skip’ as his teammates call him, will lean on that flair that makes him unmistakable on the pitch.
So what would the title of Concordia’s all-time leading goal scorer mean to Skipworth?
“I don’t think when I signed on that I had that envisioned,” Skipworth said. “Leading up to this point, I really haven’t kept track that well of my goals, assists and points. The wins, it’s the wins that mean the most to me. Having two assists and being 2-0 so far this season – so excited."
Skipworth concedes that setting a new career mark would be an amazing accomplishment. Having had his career put on hold for a year-and-a-half has made him even more appreciative.
Skipworth is thankful for Concordia professors such as Dr. Joseph Gubanyi, the natural science department chair and academic advisor to Skipworth. Gubanyi worked with Skipworth through it all and he has enjoyed seeing Skipworth's academic effort and progress.
“As a student in class, he’s always been engaged," Gubanyi said. "He’s a very good participant.
“As far as being respectful, he’s always been at the top. We as professors certainly appreciate that.”
Weides has also witnessed growth in the fearsome striker. He sees Skipworth’s potential career record-breaking accomplishment as a symbol of the senior’s achievement, on and off the field.
“I think it would be a real testament to him and what he has overcome and what he continues to try to overcome,” Weides said. “He hasn’t crossed the finish line. Even graduation won’t be crossing the finish line. It will be a continuation of his long race that he has. It will be a proud moment for him. He’s not a stats guy and I don’t think he probably really even cares about it, but I think he’ll feel proud of what he’s done.”
Skipworth, spurred throughout those dark days by a love for soccer, sits on the brink of becoming Concordia’s most prolific goal scorer, and perhaps something even more special.
“As far as biology, when I started this gig, I wanted to be a Navy corpsman,” Skipworth said. “So hopefully with my degree I can join the Navy, maybe become an officer and work my way up.”
Skipworth knows a thing or two about working his way up.