When asked to name the student seen juggling and bouncing a ball around Yale’s campus, men’s soccer head coach Brian Tompkins did not have to think twice: Rarely could former sophomore Max Morice be seen without a soccer ball by his side.
But when Morice was offered a chance to take his lifelong passion to the professional level by signing with Stade Rennes in France, the opportunity was too good to pass up.
“This has been my dream since I was a small boy, to play professional soccer,” Morice said.
After completing his freshman year and playing in all 17 of the soccer team’s games, Morice signed a professional soccer contract with Stade Rennes as one of two new recruits this summer. The team normally only takes players from France, but Morice’s family is from France and his grandfather was able to arrange a trial.
For the left-footed midfielder, soccer runs in the family. Morice’s father Pierre played with the team Nantes in the France First Division and in the United States with the Minnesota Thunder. Morice’s brother, Peter, played at Columbia.
Despite his talent on the field and commitment to the game, Morice’s early departure from Yale came as a surprise to Tomkins and three teammates interviewed. While they said they recognized that Max’s passion for soccer would likely drive him into the profession eventually, they did not expect it would come so early.
But Tim Carter, Morice’s coach for all four years at Shattuck St. Mary’s School in Minnesota, said he could imagine Morice pursuing a professional career before graduating college.
“Playing professionally was certainly always in the back of Max’s mind,” Carter said. “I know Max has the mental strength, discipline and character to take him to this next level now.”
But Carter added that playing a year of collegiate soccer puts Morice in a stronger position to make the transition than if he had entered the professional ranks directly after high school.
Morice’s transition marks the achievement of a goal for which he has been working since he began playing as a toddler.
Tod Hershovitz, assistant coach of the men’s soccer team at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an old family friend, added that Morice’s commitment to soccer and sportsmanship were present from the beginning.
“Max was always full of energy, passionate, striving to improve his game and get better and better,” Herskovitz said. “His positivity and hard-working attitude have remained consistent over the years I’ve known him, and his love for the game only continues to grow.”
Morice’s move to France marks not only a major change in his athletic career and development, but also in his personal life. Though he visits the country several times a year to see family, Morice is living permanently in France for the first time. No longer does he work to balance academics and athletics, college social life and the demands of his team. Instead, he faces the pressures that come from playing soccer as a full-time job. Currently, Morice is on the second team, also known as the reserves team, but he said he hopes to earn a spot on the first team next year.
Professional soccer in Europe is distinct from American collegiate soccer in several ways, Morice said.
“The level of play is clearly a lot higher in the professional world,” he said. “The play is much more tactical and technical. The pure strength and grit aspects are not as emphasized as they are in the U.S.”
Nick Alers ’14, defender for men’s soccer team, said Morice’s playing style at Yale already stood out for emphasizing the same tactical approach more typical of European professional play.
With Morice’s departure, the Bulldogs lost a skilled, technical player who was a tremendous asset to the team’s efforts ever since scoring the game-winning goal in his first game, against Central Connecticut State University in the fall of 2011.
But even in his departure from the team, Morice’s ability to remind his teammates why they play and love soccer so much is perhaps his greatest legacy at Yale, team member Peter Jacobson ’14 said.
Morice said he remains uncertain about whether or not he will return to Yale.
“I [get] to play soccer everyday, all day. What could be better?”