After four years as a forward for the Spartans, Craig Laird practically bleeds red and black.
Laird comes from a long line of great soccer players who played in the United Kingdom. Craig Laird’s brothers Jamie and Scott Laird both captained the Scotland Under 15 youth team growing up, with Craig Laird also being a part of the team. Scott Laird decided to take up football professionally and currently plays for Stevenage Borough FC in England.
Growing up, football was very important to to the youngest Laird brother. Aside from playing for the Scotland Under 15 youth team, he was also selected to be a part of the English Schools Under 18 Football squad.
Laird graduated from Robert Blake Science College and previously attended Millfield School in England. He was the captain of the Millfield England ISFA U18 squad, and received the distinguished honors of being the England U18 Player of the Year. He was honored for being Somerset County’s U18’s top goal scorer. He led his team in scoring every year and was named team captain each season in which they won the district championship.
So why would a player with that many accolades decide to come to Tampa? Laird discussed why he decided to come to UT: “UT has a great sporting tradition that no other university in the state has. The program is based off hard work, will, and passion, which is something I always try to carry in my game. My attitude of the game suited the standards set here at UT and it was a perfect match. And of course the sunshine. You don’t get this weather in the UK.”
As a freshman, Laird was placed on the Sunshine State Conference (SSC) Commissioner’s Honor Roll.
In his first season, Laird recorded three shots on goal in six shots while starting six games out of ten total appearances.
During his sophomore season Laird started 14 games in 16 total appearances. He recorded a total of 20 shots, with seven on goal. Laird also started in the SSC tournament and made an appearance in the NCAA tournament.
In his junior season, Laird started 15 matches, and played all 90 minutes in eight of those matches. He scored a goal against conference foe Rollins, and recorded 12 shots with five on goal for the season. In his senior campaign, Laird started in all eighteen matches, a feat that every soccer player strives for.
While speaking with head coach Adrian Bush, Craig’s work ethic as a player was a topic of discussion: “One of his best attributes is his work ethic, in the classroom and also on the field,” said Bush. “I don’t think he missed a practice in four years and was never late to any soccer commitment in his time at UT. In training he put forth his best effort and I feel it is one of the things he will be able to look back on and know he gave everything he had at training. As an athlete those are the ones that have success.”
Throughout his time at UT, Laird has continuously improved and impressed his fellow teammates and coaches, including Bush.
When asked about his favorite memory of Laird, Coach Bush said, “I would say it has been this entire year as a senior. I think he will be honest and say it has taken him some time to get settled in on the field. When he came in we looked at him as a forward but the last 2 years he has really found good success at right back. This season was by far his finest on the field and as a favorite memory for me it was watching him enjoy such a great senior year.”
Laird’s senior year has been his strongest yet, but like the rest of the team’s seniors, graduation will be here in a few short months. As this season came to a close, Bush had some advice for one of his pupils.
“The advice I would give is to never stop learning and if he wants to keep playing, go after it with everything he has. I know Craig Laird will find success in everything he does,” said Bush.
Laird wants to pursue a professional career in soccer after graduating, but his time as a Spartan on both the pitch and in the classroom has allowed him to look at alternative options for his life.
“Ever since I was a young boy I have wanted to play professionally,” said Laird. “However, coming here I have realized there is much more in the world than this soccer. Yes, I will continue to stay as close to the sport as possible, whether it be playing or even coaching.
However, UT has broadened my horizons and there are many other directions I believe I can take other than soccer.”Bush used the phrase that most people use to describe a great soccer player when describing his departing forward: “It’s in his blood.”
Ed Kerner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org