By Brent Pella, Daily Nexus
From an epiphany-inducing visit with his sister in Arizona, to a last-minute international showcase in Germany and subsequent back-to-back national championships in Texas, junior men's goalkeeper André Grandt has trekked an unusual path to the oceanside campus of UC Santa Barbara.
"It all started from Google," Grandt said.
Think about that next time you need directions.
Growing Up Goalie
Grandt's future as a goalkeeper was evident from an early age. As the son of a professional handball player, Grandt was able to learn useful skills and techniques from his father, a 25-year veteran of the Vorsfelde professional handball club in Germany.
"He's the one who taught me from the get-go how to catch a ball," Grandt said. "My mom always brought me around the games when I was little, so I was always around the ball."
After high school, Grandt began to play with a semi-professional team in Germany. Grandt's goal was to attend school and play soccer simultaneously, a feat he was unable to do while a part of the team.
While athletic scholarships seem to come from every corner of NCAA-recognized schools in America, there is quite a contrast when it comes to financial support for athletics in Germany.
"In Germany you can't get a scholarship for sports … only one or two universities [offer scholarships]," Grandt said. "So the only scholarship you can get is academic-wise."
While Grandt was still in the midst of determining his future in soccer and school, a trip abroad to visit his sister in Arizona provided the life-changing moment that would act as the catalyst in Grandt's migration west.
Google and a Goalkeeper
Grandt's arrival in Arizona to visit his sister was his first trip to the U.S., and was the first time he heard about the opportunity for athletic scholarships in America.
"[My sister] actually asked me 'why don't you get a scholarship for soccer?'" Grandt said. "I just got on Google and typed in 'sports scholarships,' and the first thing that popped up [became] my agency at the end."
After completing a few evaluation and academic forms, Grandt was greeted with a phone call from his newfound representatives the very next day with some exciting information.
"Two weeks later there was supposed to be a showcase for 50 soccer players in Germany that had the same problem I had," Grandt said. "They wanted to study and they wanted to play soccer."
Grandt was forced to make an immediate decision whether to pay a hefty late fee and sign up for the showcase, or to wait and hope for another opportunity. For an eager young athlete looking to find a balance between sports and school, the decision came quickly.
"It happened within five minutes, and two weeks later I was in a showcase," Grandt said.
Among the 25 U.S. scouts and coaches at the showcase was a representative from Tyler junior college in Tyler, Texas. After some conversations between the Tyler coaches and his recently-googled agency, Grandt was offered a position on the roster for the following season.
"I was like 'Yeah, let's go,'" Grandt said. "I was in Arizona and it was pretty hot so maybe I could take it in Texas too."
From Bratwrust to BBQ
The move to Texas proved to be successful. Grandt led the Tyler Apaches to consecutive national titles and an undefeated 41-0-1 record during his two-year junior college campaign.
Yet toward the end of his two-year reign as one of the best JC goalkeepers in the nation, Grandt was once again met with uncertainty toward his future.
"When you're a sophomore at a JC you have to think what's next," Grandt said.
UCSB coaches had heard of the Tyler soccer dynasty in the making, and initially expressed interest in a player on the other side of the field from Grandt.
"We were actually recruiting a forward from his team," UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. "While we were watching the footage for this forward we took notice that there was a goalie on the team that looked really good."
When the call eventually came from the UCSB offices offering Grandt a visit and potential spot on the roster, Grandt's reaction was to be expected.
"I heard from my coach at Tyler that UCSB wanted to call me out and I was like 'Jackpot! Where's my flight ticket?'" Grandt said.
Beach Bound and New in Town
The move to UCSB put even more distance between Grandt and his family, which currently resides in Germany. When Grandt's mother and father were recently able to come stateside for a visit, both parties were thankful for the reunion.
"My parents were here for two weeks," Grandt said. "They went to the Akron game and Cal Poly game… It was such a nice experience for them to see me play here."
As a business-economics major, Grandt looks forward to finishing his academics before taking any further steps in his career of choice. Though pursuing the dream of becoming a professional soccer player is a goal for Grandt, it is not his only focus.
"What I want to accomplish in the future is to be satisfied with myself," Grandt said. "I'll get my degree first … if I get offered a nice job here, why not? I could start a nice life in California."
But before that life begins, Grandt must focus on the one at hand. He has helped lead the Gauchos to their No. 19 ranking in the nation, and currently leads the Big West conference in shutout percentage.
"We're gonna need him to make some big saves for us as we come down to the final four games in the regular season," Vom Steeg said. "He's very focused … it's critical for us that we have that type of player in goal."
See André Grandt and the men's soccer team in action tonight when UCSB hosts Big West conference leader UC Davis at Harder Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.