Rashid Nuhu: “If I keep doing the same thing that I have been doing reading the PKs, I definitely would have a high percentage of saving [shots].” (Photo courtesy of Fordham SID)
By Michael Lewis
Rashid Nuhu is living the dream.
Thanks to the Right to Dream Academy, the Ghana native has been able to expand his horizons by attending high school and college in the United States — and by tending goal for the Fordham University men’s soccer team.
He joined the Academy when he was 12-years-old. Three years later, Nuhu accepted a four-year scholarship to the Kent School in Connecticut.
Nuhu said the Academy has helped many “young talented African players to follow that dream to become a professional soccer player and getting an education. … They keep working with the kids to become better people in general, not just soccer, but becoming a better person.”
A recent Kent School graduate who was attending Fordham at the time pointed head coach Jim McElderry toward Nuhu. The Rams once had an exceptional goalkeeper, Ryan Meara, who turned pro with the Red Bulls in 2012.
“Honestly, I didn’t think of going to Fordham until Jim started recruiting me,” said Nuhu, who will backstop the Rams against the University of North Carolina in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division I men’s soccer tournament Saturday night. “I visited Fordham. I just fell in love with the campus, the site of the school, and the big plus it was in New York City.”
The big minus — in Kent, Conn. and the Bronx — is the weather. Temperatures in Nuhu’s native country can soar past 100 degrees. So, Nuhu can wind up being left in the cold when the temperature falls in the fifties.
“When I went to Kent School, it was like the cold was one thing I really struggled with because I wasn’t used to it,” he said. “I wasn’t used to the cold. When I got to Kent School, I didn’t have a winter jacket, I didn’t have winter boots. It started snowing and I was like, this is going to be tough. I need some things to keep me warm.
“Today, even if it’s like 50 degrees, I am wearing a winter jacket. It’s cold. I don’t like playing in the cold, either. I’m pretty sure my coaches know this and my teammates. They were making fun of me. I was wearing hats and gloves when its 50 degrees. I just love to keep warm.”
Which is a perfect segue to talk about one of the hottest D-I men’s college goalkeeper around.
The 6-1, 175-lb. Nuhu put on a show during the shootout that decided the Round of 16 game at Duke University. He saved three penalties as Fordham won the tie-breaker, 8-7, after playing to a 2-2 draw in regulation and extratime.
“Honestly, I guessed three out of four,” Nuhu said. “I had confidence. If I keep doing the same thing that I have been doing reading the PKs, I definitely would have a high percentage of saving [shots]. I just stay focused and believe in myself and do what I can do to keep my team in it.”
That’s nothing new to junior midfielder-forward Janos Loebe, who has been a teammate and a good friend of Nuhu since the two met as freshman in 2015. That’s when he saved some penalties in the Atlantic 10 final.
“I haven’t seen a better college goalkeeper since I’ve been in America,” he said. “He’s the best. Everyone is super confident with him in the back, especially when we go to PKs. The other day against Duke, if you are nervous and scared and most of the team are super confident, they were smiling on the sideline because they knew we were going to win because Rashid is so good in defending PKS.”
McElderry realized he had a special keeper in Nuhu from the very start, claiming “his impact on the team is immeasurable.”
“The second he stepped on campus here, he has been a top goalkeeper,” he said. “I’ve been telling my colleagues and coaches, everybody on how good he is since he got here. but he has improved since he has gotten here as well. He has matured into a young man. He’s gotten a lot more vocal in games. He’s gotten better in training, He’s gotten more competitive in training.
“All those little growths in his game has made him better. He has always been very good. But I think some of those aspects in his game have now made him — I honestly feel he is one of the top goalkeepers in the country, regardless of conference or age or anything.
“You talk about players who impact games — those are the best players, right. He impacts games both when we have the ball because he is so good with his feet, and he impacts games just keeping the ball out of the goal. I really think he is one of the top if not top goalkeeper in the country right now. Playing with a lot of confidence. The belief that our players have in his ability makes us so much better because they feel he can make saves when we need them. ‘Hey if we can score goals, we can win games.’ ”
He still has a year remaining at Fordham, but Nuhu has aspirations of playing professionally, which would be following the Right to Dream Academy’s protocols.
“My No. 1 goal is to play professionally here,” he said. “I hope it is in MLS. I have been in the states for seven years now. I honestly don’t care where it is, as long as I am playing.”