NC State Graduate Jake Tykes Talks to PASS4Soccer
Client Jake Dykes is a prime example of what can be achieved post-graduation. The defender went out to the United States as a transfer student back in 2017.
Prior to going to North Carolina State University on a scholarship, Jake played in the League of Ireland and Northern Ireland Championship for Sligo Rovers and Ballinamallard respectively.
NC State is a big NCAA DI school and in his junior year, Jake made 13 appearances for the Wolfpack.
After graduating in 2018, he returned home to play for a year. He has since moved to Doha, Qatar to take up a coaching role. Speaking to PASs4 for an exclusive Q&A session, Jake was asked about his move to the Middle-East, his time at NC State and what the future holds for him.
Firstly, how did the opportunity come up to go and work over in Doha?
JD: I had it in mind for some time. Ciaran Kelly, a former Sligo Rovers player, was over there and asked would I be interested in joining the club. We spoke in depth about the opportunities that were available in Doha and the plan in place for the football club. Then my mind was made up.
Since graduating from university in the US, what have you been up to?
JD: I returned home to Ireland in 2018 and wanted to play part-time football in Northern Ireland and also work. I was fortunate enough to land a job with an engineering & technical solutions company in Sligo. I also signed for Dungannon Swifts in the Dankse Bank Premier Division.
What was it like attending a top university in the US?
JD: It was brilliant. The first season I was there we had a poor run of form and it was a steep learning curve. New management came in for my second season and they had recruited heavily. We had a fantastic team. Unfortunately for me, we played UCONN in a preseason game. I was made captain on the night and I suffered from a freak injury. That was my season over before it even started. The day-to-day life of a college athlete in the ACC was hectic. You are placed in a learning environment, so you figure out how to cope with being a student-athlete.
How different was the sport in the US, compared to back home in Ireland?
JD: Chalk and cheese really. In terms of football principles, they’re similar. There are now fantastic academy set-ups in America with huge numbers of players coming through the system to play pro in both the US and Europe. The biggest difference for me really was the level of player in college compared to in Ireland. I will use Dennis Smith Jr. as an example. Dennis played with NC State for one season.
I was lucky enough to see him play live both in training and games. He already knew he was going to the NBA. He was drafted 9th overall by the Dallas Mavericks after one season at the age of 18. My point is that colleges are competing with each other for the best athletes in America. The athletes are a source of revenue for the colleges, so they obviously want the best players. College sport in Ireland is growing, but I don’t think it can ever get to the level of America and that’s through no fault of their own. The infrastructure and money just isn’t there.
I do think we will start to see a lot more scholarship programmes come into play in Ireland over the next 10 years. It makes sense. Bohemians train in the evening four days a week, so players can work and go to college. It is a full-time environment, but players can still go and earn a second salary or go earn a degree. I think their philosophy and model will be the standard in the coming years
Was there any stand-out moments for you during your time at university?
JD: The standout moment for me would be having my family there when I graduated. My mum, sisters and grandparents flew over from Sligo for the week. We stayed in Raleigh for three or four days and then flew to New York for the weekend. You could imagine having two 60 odd year old grandparents trying to figure out their way around Manhatten. For me, that was definitely the highlight because it was the first time that some of my family had been to the US. Football-wise, we had some great moments as a team. We were the team that turned the programme around to where NC State should be in the ACC.
What are you aspirations in life now?
JD: I have a lot of aspirations. This is a massive project in Doha at the minute with our first team now becoming professional. Our academy is growing to its highest numbers since launch. So all my focus is on the project here for the foreseeable future.
For anybody thinking of going down the US Scholarship route, what would you say to them?
JD: Go for it! The biggest challenge you will have is choosing the right college for you. Take your time making your decision. Talk to friends and family and do as much research as possible. It was definitely one of the best decisions I ever made. I have made friends for life. It has opened up doors for me that would not have been possible without taking the leap.
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