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    BLOG: The Real Story of Rich Nassif

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    More than nine years ago, Rich Nassif joined the Northwestern men's soccer program as a last-minute walk-on goalkeeper.

    Today, after nine seasons as a player and coach, the Northwestern chapter of his career comes to a close as he is set to become the new men's soccer head coach at Benedictine University.

    Nine years ago, Rich Nassif was not even on head coach Tim Lenahan's radar.  Lenahan and his squad were conducting preseason training at Lakeside Field when an unfortunate accident left the Wildcats with just one healthy goalkeeper.

    NU's goalkeeper at the time, Justin Pines, suffered an injury in practice during the second week of the season. Jeff Mills had an idea. His high school teammate at Palatine, Rich Nassif, was already admitted into Northwestern and would be on campus in a few weeks. Mills suggested the coaching staff contact Nassif to fill in as a backup goalkeeper.

    "The option to bring in a goalkeeper from the club team was not possible since school was not in session," Lenahan said. "I literally said to my assistant coach 'I wish there was a goalie store where we could just call and order one' when Jeff Mills spoke up. The ironic thing is that Jeff Mills was a very, very quiet guy and he kind of piped in saying, 'There is a kid from my high school who is not bad.'"

    Nassif joined the team late in the preseason, beginning what would end up being a successful nine-year career as a player and member of the coaching staff at Northwestern.
    Nassif's player bio does not do him justice. It lists him playing just 17 total minutes in his career, which mainly came when the 'Cats were winning or losing by a sizable amount. He also suited up at center forward for Senior Day.

    "One of the highlights of Rich's career was at the Marquette Spring Tournament in spring of 2004," Lenahan said. "Injuries left Rich as the ONLY goalie. That day, Rich pitched two shutouts and we garnered three wins. This 'sweep' that ended the spring season in 2004, served as a springboard for our NCAA Tournament season the next year. When Rich jumped in goal during our training the last few seasons and made a big save, I would shout out 'Marquette Tournament!'"
    Nassif is in the record book as being a part of every single NCAA tournament appearance in program history, either as a player or member of Lenahan's coaching staff. Despite limited playing time, he had the leadership skills necessary to be selected team captain of the 2006 squad, which went to the NCAA Elite Eight for the first time in program history.

    "Rich is a great example to guys coming out of high school that you don't have to be a starter or the best player to have a positive impact on the program," Lenahan said. "Richie was the captain of the team that made the Elite Eight his senior year because his teammates loved his work ethic, personality and trusted him unconditionally to do what was right for the program."

    It is the stats that are not officially recorded that count the most in Nassif's tenure at Northwestern. Rich has spent countless hours as a vocal leader on the sidelines and as a teacher and mentor to the student-athletes. He has worked closely with two of the best goalkeepers in program history, guiding Misha Rosenthal to two-time All-Big Ten accolades and Tyler Miller to first-team all-conference and freshman All-America honors.
    Rich also did little things off the field to keep the team motivated throughout the grind of a college soccer season. For example, prior to every big match this year, Nassif made a highlight video (to the soundtrack of Flo Rida's "Good Feeling") to pump up the squad. Two Big Ten titles later, the team may be sick of hearing Flo Rida, but will never forget the memories thanks to Nassif's highlight videos.
    There is no question Rich Nassif will be missed by everyone at Northwestern but it was only a matter of time before he landed a head coaching position. We wish him the best of luck at Benedictine University and thank him for everything he did, whether it was filling in for Justin Pines in net or coaching on the sidelines, during his nine-year tenure with the Northwestern men's soccer program. He came as a last-second, injury-replacement walk-on and leaves as one of the most influential players and coaches in Northwestern history.

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