Spotlight on Soccer Star and UF Alum Abby Wambach

2015 Women’s World Cup champion and Gator alumni, Abby Wambach, returned to her old stomping grounds last Tuesday to commence Homecoming week. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, it should. Wambach is one of the all-time highest goal scorers in the history of soccer. As if that isn’t impressive enough, she is also a two-time Olympic medalist, and was named U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year a whopping six times.

She’s been a regular on the U.S. national soccer team for 14 years and most recently made headlines after announcing that she’s retiring once all the World Cup victory tour matches have been played. Before officially hanging up her cleats, Wambach joined UF’s Journalism Department Chair Ted Spiker and over 1,000 students in the Phillips Center at an event hosted by the ACCENT Speaker’s Bureau last Tuesday evening.

The ambiance was full of excitement as students wearing jerseys with Wambach’s name filled the Phillips Center and waited for her in the crowd. Cheers exploded the moment she stepped on stage doing Gator chomps, and it was easy to tell that despite all the victories, Wambach has managed to remain humble.

Perhaps what was most alluring was the way she decided to use this opportunity on a UF platform to not talk about herself, but to inspire others through her experiences. She emphasized the importance of being a leader and not letting anyone steer you in the wrong direction.

“The reality is, you can be a leader in any moment in any given day,” she said. “All you have to do is believe in yourself and have some conviction and passion about what you do.”

“That struck a chord with me, making me realize that leaders aren’t necessarily just the ones in leadership positions,” said UF senior Patricia Matamoros. “Anyone can be a leader by believing in themselves. She was just an overall inspiration.”

Wambach told the crowd about a time during either her junior or senior year at UF in which a professor belittled her.

“Abby, you’re literally not going to be able to do anything with women’s soccer,” Wambach said he told her. A few years later, she had a response to that professor as she simply looked over and said, “I hope you’re in the crowd.” Clearly, he was wrong. Wambach has won countless games and has broken numerous records, which in turn led UF to pay her $20,000 to speak at the event. 

“She made herself so relatable,” Matamoros said.

She even delivered a bombshell confession. Wambach admitted that UF was not on her radar when she was searching for universities as a high school graduate. She originally had her eyes set on the University of California, Los Angeles, and three other schools, but Wambach’s mother convinced her to visit the small town of Gainesville. What a great thing that she did because in her freshman year, Wambach helped the UF women’s soccer team win a national championship.

“She’s the true essence of what being a Gator is all about. Although you leave UF, UF never leaves you,” said Matamoros.

She still holds UF very near and dear, and fans associate her with the school all the time. Fans wave the Gator flag during games and even take part in doing the Gator chomp. Despite her many years of travelling all over the world Wambach made one thing extremely clear.

“I still bleed orange and blue,” Wambach said.