Oct. 14, 2006
by Kerwin Lonzo
Assistant Director, UVa Athletics Media Relations
Meet Ryan Burke. A native of Cumberland Foreside, Maine, he's an avid Boston Red Sox fan, who had to deal with a not so great season by his Sox as he hesitantly admits. A former center fielder for the Greely High School baseball team, as well as an all-around athlete for his alma mater, Burke is now a four-year starting goalkeeper on the nationally ranked Virginia men's soccer team and a resident of the Lawn with a double major in French and economics.
That's the fourth-year in a nutshell.
In the midst of his many descriptions, Burke is wrapping up one of the best careers by a Virginia goalkeeper. Burke ranks in the top 10 in several career categories including minutes played, games played, saves, goals allowed average, and shutouts. In four years in goal, he's helped the Cavaliers to two Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championships, three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, and a top 10 national ranking each year including a No. 1 ranking already in 2006. Burke was named the most valuable player of the 2003 ACC tournament and has earned All-South Atlantic region, VaSID All-State, and Region 3 All-Academic honors and is an inaugural member of the ACC All-Academic men's soccer team.
While Burke's success in the classroom is no surprise, his success on the field has opened his eyes.
"Looking back at my first year, if you were to tell me that in four years, I would be the starting goalkeeper and the captain, I wouldn't believe you in a second," Burke said. "So, definitely, it's been a pleasant surprise. I remember sitting on the bench as a first year and thinking there is no possible way that I will ever get on the field, because I did not believe that I could compete at this level."
Burke had no time to really take his thoughts into consideration. After Virginia's starting goalkeeper in 2003 suffered an injury. Burke was thrown into action.
"The coaches threw me in there; and honestly, I was completely unprepared," Burke said. "I just tried to listen to everything that the coaches told me and tried to get the most out of every game. The coaches gave me ample time to learn and grow as a soccer player and an athlete."
That first year, Burke played in 16 games with 15 starts. He was named a freshman All-American by Soccer America and received College Soccer News' second team and all-freshman team honors.
Three seasons later, Burke continues to rack up the honors on the field. He is close to setting the school record for career shutouts. He came within one shutout of tying the single season school record in 2005.
Off the field, he continues to excel in the classroom just as he has always done. Burke earned one of the university's most prestigious honors when he was selected to live on the Lawn.
"Living on the Lawn has been great," Burke said. "There are a lot of people around all the time - lots of friends and lots of new faces. It's been a good chance to get to know a lot of people at the University. I'm really fortunate that I was selected to live there. It's such a big honor and a once in a lifetime opportunity that you really can't pass up."
Living on the Lawn has also brought him closer to the academic village where he continues to focus on his double major in French and economics. He started taking French 10 years ago and is fluent in the language.
"It came easy to me. I enjoy it very much. It's a very rewarding experience to communicate with someone in a foreign language," Burke said. "I've managed to learn more about something I enjoy as well as focus on economics. I'm thinking about doing post-graduate work in economics, which is something I would like to pursue."
Burke can also be caught speaking French on the soccer field. He and teammates Bakary Soumare and Ian Holder communicate every once in a while in the language while they are playing. Holder is a fellow French major, while Soumare is a Frenchman.
While his academics and soccer has been great for him, Burke definitely has a passion for the sport of baseball. He was born and raised a Red Sox fan and played center field in high school.
"In high school, I was convinced that soccer was what would get me to the next level," he said. "I had a lot of encouragement to go and pursue soccer in college. Sometimes, I can hear the UVa baseball team practicing as I'm warming up during my soccer matches. I do miss playing it, but college baseball has a pretty rigorous schedule. I give a lot of credit to those guys, but I wouldn't trade this experience. Besides, I follow more professional baseball. I am born and raised in the Red Sox tradition."
As Virginia continues its track for another ACC title, Burke said he's enjoyed contributing to one of the top national programs.
"If I wasn't playing sports and just doing one thing, it would be to help others. I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from helping other people," Burke said. "If I could help other people in some capacity everyday, my life would be really rewarding. I've been able to help my team over the last four years up to this point, and I hope to continue to do just that."