Change is one thing Harvard men's soccer captain Tom McLaughlin has proven he can handle very well.
After coming to Harvard as a forward and playing that position in his freshman year, McLaughlin was moved to marking back as a sophomore to help his team. Despite the switch, he was named to the All-Ivy Second Team that year.
The following season, Harvard Coach Steve Locker moved McLaughlin back to forward to spark the Crimson's offense. The results: a 16-2 record and an NCAA Tournament victory for Harvard, a school record 16-game winning streak by the Crimson and a spot for McLaughlin on the All-Ivy First Team.
In his junior season McLaughlin also led the Ancient Eight in scoring with 41 points on 13 goals and 15 assists. His 15 assists set a new Harvard single-season record, and his 41 points ranked him among the top 20 players in the nation in overall scoring. He also earned Third Team Academic All-American honors.
Remaining at forward this season, McLaughlin capped off a tremendous collegiate career by leading the Ivies in scoring once again with 32 points (12 goals, eight assists), breaking the Harvard all-time assists mark--McLaughlin registered 25 career assists, eclipsing the previous record of 23--and becoming only the second Harvard player ever to earn Ivy League Player of the Year honors. He was also named a Second-Team Academic All-American and a First-Team Northeast Region All-American.
It would seem that versatility is a trait McLaughlin has mastered. But the greatest testament to his ability to adapt to new situations is the post-Commencement job that McLaughlin has lined up for himself.
On February 1, the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer (MLS) selected McLaughlin in the third round of the MLS draft as the 36th overall pick, and exactly two weeks ago, on May 21, the man known to many simply as Tommy Mac signed the contract that officially placed him on the Revolution's 20-man roster. McLaughlin's long-time dream of becoming a professional soccer player had finally become a reality.
"[Signing the contract] was an awesome feeling," McLaughlin said. "My dad got a few days off from work and came up--my family's renowned for coming to all of our events--so that was nice."
"I was so nervous; I just wanted to get it over with. The coaches were very supportive, and they've all been great. I was just walking on clouds that day," he said.
One day later on Friday, May 22, McLaughlin saw action in his first professional game versus the Columbus Crew. And 10 minutes into his 32-minute debut, Tommy Mac let all of MLS know that he had no plans of letting up in the pros.
Off of a Revolution corner kick, McLaughlin gained position in front of the Columbus goal, and as the Crew's goaltender attempted to claw his way over McLaughlin's back, the Harvard senior managed to knock the ball into the net. In a questionable decision, the referee disallowed the goal, saying McLaughlin had obstructed the goalie.
Still, the play stands as another testament to McLaughlin's uncanny ability to adapt to new situations--in less than a quarter of an hour, Tommy Mac had elevated his play from the college level to that required of him in the
But if talent and versatility are McLaughlin'sobvious assets, his heart and commitment to thegame he loves are the less highlighted, yetequally vital, traits that make Tommy Mac theincredible athlete and individual that he is. Oneneed only examine his journey from MLS draft dayto the day he signed four months later tounderstand.
Even after being selected by the Revolution,McLaughlin had every intention of completing hisacademic collegiate career and graduating with theClass of 1998. He knew that finishing his finalsemester would prevent him from joining on withthe Revolution in time for the start of the MLSseason in late March.
McLaughlin informed Revolution Coach ThomasRongen of his intention to complete his degreerequirements, and he selflessly expressed hiswillingness to play in the lower A-league ranksfor a time in order to prove his worth. But it wasprecisely this aspect of McLaughlin's attitude,coupled with his ability to play a number ofpositions, that had prompted Rongen and theRevolution to draft McLaughlin.