David Coly fought through adversity to become a champion

How he overcame a nearly four-year hiatus to become a star

David Coly fought through adversity to become a champion

Junior forward David Coly hadn’t scored a goal in a collegiate match since 2016, but as he prepared for a penalty kick against the Bucknell Bison, that was about to change.

Coly struck the ball to his left, with the goalkeeper diving in the opposite direction for an easy finish in the back of the net. It became the first of his seven goals in 2021 and marked the beginning of what would become a fantastic season for Coly.

The awards quickly piled up — Second Team All-Patriot League honors, 2021 Patriot League scoring leader and Patriot League Tournament MVP. These are just three of the many awards that Coly received in his first year as an Eagle.

Yet Coly had to take a long road to reach this point in his collegiate soccer career. In 2016, after completing his second season with the University of Washington Huskies, he found himself at the start of what became a four-year pause in his playing career.

Due to a visa issue that wouldn’t be resolved until 2019, Coly had to return home to Senegal. During this time, he could not return to the United States to play or continue his education, testing his motivation to continue playing the game he loves.

“It was hard, to be honest, to find motivation,” Coly said. “For the whole entire year, I was depressed. For that year, that entire year, my training wasn’t on point, my eating wasn’t on point, just nothing was on point. I would just rather stay at home in my room watching TV.”

However, his parents helped keep him motivated with trips to watch professional soccer matches in Europe.

“They would have me go to Europe and watch PSG [Paris-Saint Germain], which is my favorite team, and go to the stadium,” Coly said. “That means the world to me, so those moments I think kept me in the loop, kept me believing, knowing that something was going to happen. Every time we would go to Europe and come back home, I would start training. That’s where I would get my motivation from. If it wasn’t for me going to Europe and instead staying home, I would have quit soccer a long time ago because I had no motivation.”

But Coly’s soccer break wasn’t over yet, even after he was able to return to the United States. Just a few months before transferring to American University in the summer of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic put the world on lockdown and canceled what would have been Coly’s first season as an Eagle. Like many, Coly said the pandemic has been tough to deal with, and was especially challenging at the beginning.

How Coly transferred to the Eagles is a story in and of itself, men’s soccer head coach Zach Samol said. 

“My assistant should get all the credit,” Samol said. “My assistant coach [Mike] Montross, remembers David from when he was in high school, and he was recruiting him as well in that time period. … when he came back into the country and came up on the transfer portal, Monty saw it and said we should reach out to him.”

Samol is a friend of Jamie Clark, the University of Washington men’s soccer head coach, and said that Samol reached out to talk to about Coly. But there was one issue with the recruiting process — according to Samol, all of Coly’s game tape was from years ago. Despite this lack of recent game tape, the coaching staff took the leap of faith given their previous knowledge of Coly and their discussions with his former coaches. 

Samol wasn’t the only one who had a lot to think about when recruiting Coly. Coly himself had to weigh the pros and cons of all the schools recruiting him, but American University caught his eye.

“I came to D.C., fell in love with D.C.,” Coly said. “The coaches; really nice. The guys; awesome. I was like ‘well I might give it a chance.’ This is actually a good challenge for me; you know, the team is losing, and maybe they just need that one piece of the puzzle that they’re missing, and it might be me. So why not take the chance and see what is gonna happen.”

Coly certainly became one of the missing pieces that propelled the Eagles to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 17 years. Along the way, Coly racked up numerous awards and achievements, including a six-game goal streak, three Geico Student-Athlete of the Week awards and being named to the United Soccer Coaches All-Atlantic Region Second Team. Even with all these accomplishments, Coly said he is still just getting started.

“I’m still getting back on my feet,” Coly said. “When you spend three years not playing organized soccer, it’s hard when you come back, so I think it’s still me trying to get back to knowing how to feel better and getting used to the ball again. Definitely, I think what I am doing [now], I am capable of doing a lot better.”


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