Zak Boggs spent multiple years training with the IMG Academy soccer program. Many know that Boggs is a professional soccer player for the New England Revolution, but few know that he is a professional person. When he is not helping hit team win MLS games, he is volunteering his free time to a greater need, fighting cancer. His story was recently featured in an article by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Zak Boggs inspiration comes from many places.
A professional soccer player for the New England Revolution, Boggs will play in the Atlanta Pro Soccer Challenge at Kennesaw State Soccer Stadium.
One day, he might be known for something far more important: helping find a cure for cancer.
When not playing wherever he's needed for the Revolution, he helps researchers at Children's Hospital Boston.
Boggs' interest comes naturally: His father is a surgeon in West Virginia; his mother is his father's nurse practitioner.
Boggs also lived with a family one summer in Bradenton, Fla., while attending high school at an IMG Academy, and the mother dealt with liver and lung cancer.
âTo see how the family coped with that, it made me sad,â Boggs said. âBut she's like a second mother to me. She's still fighting the fight.â
Boggs was so moved by the woman's struggle it was part of the reason he chose to major in biomedical sciences at South Florida. A dedicated student in the classroom and athlete on the pitch, Boggs was a Rhodes Scholar candidate and helped the Bulls win their first Big East championship in 2008 and make a second-round appearance in the 2009 NCAA tournament.
He was selected by the Revolution in last year's MLS SuperDraft, and later started four games and scored two goals in nine appearances. A contributor at several positions, he suffered a concussion during practice in June after bumping heads with a teammate. He didn't tell anyone, but he wasn't his normal self in the next game. Coach Steve Nicol elected to sit Boggs for the final 17 games.
Earlier in the season, while visiting patients at the hospital, Boggs told officials about his background and interest in working in one of their laboratories. He had volunteered at hospitals in Tampa when he was a student. People in Boston were intrigued and welcomed him.
With more time on his hands following the concussion, Boggs began working three days per week as an intern and guest researcher for Dr. Marsha Moses, one of the nation's pre-eminent cancer researchers. The goal of her lab was to transform cancer into a harmless condition.
Boggs laughs when asked what he does: he works with urine samples, and helps the diagnosticians run tests on the proteins that can determine cures for breast cancer and prostate cancer.
âBoth soccer and scientific research take dedication and determination,â Dr. Moses said in an e-mail. âZak came to us during a break from the playing field and was able to take off his cleats and put on his research hat. He is a great student and has worked side by side with my team, learning and contributing to our work.â
When the team gets back to Boston, Boggs will continue volunteering. Right now, the Revolution are trying to reclaim their place in MLS. New England, one of the league's most successful franchises, finished 19 points behind New York, the Eastern Conference leaders, last season. The sixth-place finish snapped a string of eight consecutive playoff appearances, with four trips to the championship game.
Boggs may be an important part of the plans. Naturally a left-side midfielder or striker, Boggs has played up and down both sides of the field. He worked at right back during a practice in Kennesaw on Friday.
âThe fact he got his injury when he did couldn't have come at a worse time for him,â said Nicol, a former standout in Liverpool in the 1980s. âComing in this year he started where he left off. He wants to play.
âIf we have 11 guys who are positive and want to get better like he does, we'll be in better shape.â