Written by Jordan Cohn '19
The bleachers surrounding Tylus Field were jam-packed Oct. 20, 2007. Fresh off a defeat at the hands (or perhaps feet) of the Swarthmore Garnet, the Franklin & Marshall College Men's Soccer team sought to defend its home turf and bounce back after a discouraging overtime loss. After all, it was the squad's first loss of the season, which stained their immaculate 13-0 record.
That F&M soccer season almost never happened. Coach Dan Wagner and the entire Diplomats' community suffered a tragic loss when senior Chris Campbell suddenly passed away a day before the preseason began.
"The guys dedicated the year to Chris," remembered Wagner. "We were good for sure, but a lot of our success came because we were playing for Chris out there."
The rival presence that came into Lancaster on that warm, but blustery, evening was almost as impressive as the Diplomats. The Blue Jays of Johns Hopkins University had soared during the first half of the season, boasting a 13-2 record. The last time the two squads met was in the Centennial Conference Championship the season prior, a contest that had resulted in a Blue Jays' victory.
Over 1,600 fans, which exceeded the second-most attended home soccer game in the last 15 seasons by over 700 people, huddled around Tylus Field in a frenzy of excitement. Wagner vividly recounts the scene.
"The setting was just a perfect storm of how good we were, how good Hopkins was, the devotion of the guys to Chris, the fact that it was the first Homecoming game ever at Tylus Field… all of these things coalesced into an exceptional atmosphere," recalled Wagner. "People were lining the fences four or five rows deep, all along the side fence and behind each goal."
With the score knotted 1-1 after a late equalizer from Johns Hopkins, both teams battled for the remaining minutes of regulation time, but to no avail. With overtime in the cards, senior Brandon Corday '08 knew he needed to take charge—and he did just that.
"That year, if we were going to score, it was either going to be Brandon or Ryan [McGonigle]," explained Wagner, sitting in his office parallel to a poster of the eventful night. "Those two were the ultimate offensive duo."
Three minutes into the overtime period, Corday received a chip pass from McGonigle at midfield and beautifully finished off a one-on-one situation, effectively ending the game.
"We hadn't beaten Johns Hopkins at home in 14 years," recalled Corday. "I was playing in front of half the school on Senior Day. It was an unforgettable moment."
Rewriting the Record Books
Although the Johns Hopkins game may stand out as the pinnacle from Corday's brilliant career, he remembers plenty of others. Among those was the famous "Boot Game" against Elizabethtown, an annual tradition that awards the winner a trophy of a game-used cleat.
"We beat E-Town after waiting out a two-hour delay, and the game ended around midnight," explained Corday before recounting additional highlights of his career. "The Hopkins game led us to an at-large NCAA bid for my senior year, which was an amazing feeling. The same thing had happened in my junior year. There were just so many great victories."
The team's success reflected Corday's extraordinary individual accomplishments. The first-ballot F&M Athletic Hall of Famer, inducted in late October, currently sits atop the College's leaderboard in career assists with 25.
"Brandon talks to a lot of the guys, and I talk to him nearly every day," said Wagner. "He's stayed close with the program."
Corday's offensive prowess was notable not only for his excellent ball distribution but also for his knack of finding the back of the net. He sits fourth in program history for goals scored, which gives him 93 total points, also good for fourth all time. With appearances on the Centennial Conference First Team in all four years of his career, Corday is one of the most dominant offensive Diplomats in history.
A Strong Team Bond
Corday had endless praise for Wagner's coaching system throughout his four years on the team. Since Corday's arrival, the Diplomats have not endured a losing season under Wagner and have consistently been one of the nation's top teams.
"Coach Wagner just brings so much to the table," exclaimed Corday. "His commitment to bettering as many people as he can is so strong that the entire system he creates is made to get the best out of everyone. He's just as avid a student of the game as all the players."
Soccer for Life
Corday went on to play soccer professionally after graduating from F&M. Competing for the Major Indoor Soccer League's Chicago Storm and Chicago Riot in brief stints, he looks back on his College years and realizes how "rare and special" his experience was in Lancaster.
"The soccer team was big on culture, and F&M nurtured the development of our team's close bonds," said Corday. "Everything was designed for close and frequent interaction between us. The way we made it through Chris's passing made us super close."
The lack of this close-knit, well-developed culture was the most challenging aspect of playing professionally for Corday, who decided to part ways with professional soccer as a career after a few years.
"I was making two leaps, skipping from Division III to the pros without any Division I experience," said Corday. "The speed of the game is dramatically different, as well as the overall ability of the guys on the field out there."
After his playing and coaching soccer, Corday opted to go back to law school and follow a path reflected in his undergraduate experience. A beneficiary of F&M's special studies program, Corday created his own major entitled "Values in Conflict," and went on to use this in his career as a field counsel.
"My bachelor's degree in my own created major helped me to develop critical and analytical thinking in a way that suited my needs and interests," explained Corday.
Soccer still plays an enormous role in his life, and he continues competing for a semi-pro club at home in California.
"Soccer supplemented my education well," said Corday. "Attention to detail, daily structure and discipline, and embracing challenges were all relevant skills that my soccer career fostered."
Back Where it all Began
Although Corday is a first-ballot selection, the 10-year wait period can still sneak up on the inductees.
"I was a little surprised when I got the call," said Corday. "I didn't realize it had been 10 years already. I spoke to Coach Wagner right away and couldn't wait to come back to campus."
Wagner accommodated Corday, along with his family and friends as they came to F&M over homecoming weekend, bringing them to the away game Thursday night against McDaniel and hosting them at his house.
Corday accepted his honor at an Oct. 26 ceremony on Hartman Green. The weekend continued with an alumni match at Tylus Field, followed by a reception with many of his former teammates, coaches, family members, and friends of the program.
"If I have any advice for the guys now, it is to embrace the culture, enjoy the culture, and take advantage of the time you have with everyone," said Corday, furthering his legacy not only as a stellar athlete, but also as a role model for the current members of the F&M men's soccer program.