AMHERST, Mass. – Amherst College senior standout men's soccer goalkeeper Thomas Bull spent the first week of February practicing with Major League Soccer (MLS) side F.C. Dallas as part of the team's preseason camp.
Bull has played a vital role in the recent success of the Amherst men's soccer program, and in 2015, kept 16 clean sheets to help lift the Purple & White to the team's first-ever NCAA Division III title.
"Just being able to see what it takes to be a professional, how to take care of your body, the level you need to perform at, and all the little things that go into the day-to-day was a great experience to have under my belt," Bull said of his training experience at F.C. Dallas.
Bull, who has had other opportunities at pursuing a professional career, values the experiences and education afforded to him at Amherst.
One such glimpse at seeing the professional landscape came in May of 2014 when Jerome de Bontin - a French businessman, former General Manager of MLS club New York Red Bulls, and Amherst alum, helped organize a 12-day trip to France where members of the Purple & White men's soccer team visited Paris, Bontin, Lyon and Monaco. During that trip, Amherst competed against the academies of Paris Saint-Germaine (PSG), Auxerre, U-18 Olympique Lyonnais and AS Monaco, and were guests of Prince Albert II - also an Amherst alum - at the Monaco Palace.
It was there that Bull caught the eye of some of the top teams in France, and the head professional coaches from PSG and AS Monaco in particular.
"Thomas has impressed me throughout his career at Amherst," de Bontin observed. "But I was comforted in my belief that he had potential for a professional career when the two PSG and AS Monaco coaches complemented Thomas for his performances."
The Purple & White tied their matches with PSG and Olympique Lyonnais, and lost to Auxerre and AS Monaco.
De Bontin also noted that it is very difficult to break into the professional ranks, especially as a goalkeeper, but also said an experience at a club like Bull recently had at F.C. Dallas would go a long way in helping him continue to develop in his career.
"Thomas is persevering," de Bontin stated. "He is very good, very smart. Hopefully he can break through at the next level."
A native of Montgomery, N.J., Bull was the NCAA statistical champion in save percentage (.936) and goals against average (0.23), and his superior play between the posts helped him set a new NCAA Division III men's soccer record for career shutouts (50). For his efforts, Bull was named the D3Soccer.com Goalkeeper of the Year and a First Team All-American; an NSCAA Third Team All-American and NSCAA First Team All-New England Region selection; A first Team ECAC New England All-Star; and First Team All-NESCAC honoree.
Bull helped Amherst get off to a fast start allowing just three goals during the regular season that saw the Purple & White finish 14-0-1, 9-0-1 in NESCAC action. Following an early exit from the conference tournament, Amherst put together a phenomenal NCAA tournament run that saw the team shutout four straight opponents and complete the tremendous journey with a 2-1 victory over Loras College in the championship game at the Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City, Mo. Bull was named the Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the game, and earned NCAA All-Tournament honors. The Purple & White finished the historical season 18-1-2 overall, tying the program record for wins in a season.
"We are all very proud of Thomas and what he's been able to help our program accomplish over the past four years. By any measure, he's one of the best goalkeepers to ever play Division III soccer, and he's an even better person," head coach Justin Serpone stated. "We are very excited to see what the future holds for him as he moves forward in his soccer career."
For now, Bull is dedicated and focused on finishing his college education, and sites that as a reason he decided to attend Amherst in the first place - educational opportunity.
"I really prioritize my education," Bull explained. "I am definitely going to put playing professionally off so I can get my degree in the Spring."