Brandon Guhl during a game at the Sellick Bowl. Guhl transferred to Butler from SMU. Jimmy Lafakis/Collegian file photo.
JOSH MULLENIX | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a “take two” of sorts for junior Brandon Guhl and college soccer. The first take was set in Dallas, Texas, at Southern Methodist University.
When he stepped on SMU’s campus in the fall of 2016, it had been a while since Guhl wasn’t the best scorer on the field every game.
He dominated high school soccer.
In 2014-2015, Guhl, then a youth soccer player in Texas, scored the third-most goals in the US Soccer Academy season. He netted 31 goals in 30 games.
To a similar tune, Guhl led both the state of Texas and the central conference of the United States Soccer Development Academy in goals the following season.
Like every highly recruited high school player, Guhl was told he was the guy the Mustangs were trying to build around.
“I came into SMU cocky because I had a pretty good résumé in high school,” Guhl said. “Not knowing absolutely anything about how college soccer works, I expected to be the guy.”
Instead of being the guy, Guhl appeared in eight games for the Mustangs and only took one shot. And adding insult to injury, his coach told him at the end of the year they were going in a different direction at striker.
“That really fueled my fire,” Guhl said.
After his freshman season, Guhl decided to make a change and transfer. Butler caught his eye due to the vacancy at striker left by David Goldsmith, who had scored 41 goals in a Butler uniform, along with the leadership of head coach Paul Snape, who was a successful striker in his own right.
Less than one year after arriving at SMU, Guhl was the new kid on the block again. This time, 1,016 miles from home.
Guhl’s father and the rest of his circle, which included Guhl’s club team technical director Don Gemmell and other Texas Rush coaches, stressed to him they would support his decision to chase soccer at Butler. They also told him he’d better go into it ready to avoid another situation like what happened at SMU.
“I wanted to make this transfer worth it,” Guhl said.
With a year of college soccer under his belt, Guhl arrived on Butler’s campus and joined a team that, like SMU originally, was in need of a striker. But this time, he went in ready to prove he was still the player who put up crazy numbers in high school.
“You could tell he had a chip on his shoulder,” former Butler goalkeeper Eric Dick said. “He wanted to work hard. A guy willing to learn, buy into the system, whatever it is. I learned that pretty early on and it would continue throughout the season. He would text me throughout the season and talk to the coaches all the time. He wanted to do whatever it took to help the program.”
So this is the part of the story where everything is sunshine and rainbows and Guhl naturally becomes the player he became at Butler, right? Wrong.
The summer prior to his first season at Butler, Guhl played in the Professional Development League where he suffered a minor concussion, Butler head coach Paul Snape said.
“To be honest, he didn’t know if he really belonged in Division I,” Snape said. “Here he is, he had a year at SMU and scored zero goals. And then he trained with a PDL team in the summer and got a concussion. When he came to Butler, he was still unsure if he could play at this level.”
Despite understanding the physical and mental demand of college soccer, the start at Butler was rocky, Dick said. There was a learning curve for Guhl and chemistry issues to overcome.
The early season struggle led to a one-on-one meeting with Dick — a meeting that wasn’t scheduled by the captain and senior goalkeeper, but by Guhl. It came after Butler’s 3-2 overtime win against South Florida early in the 2017 season. Guhl, who had started the first two games of the year, briefly lost the starting position and came off the bench in that game.
Dick reinforced the trust that his teammates and coaches had in Guhl’s abilities. He reminded Guhl that he was here for a reason.
“That really went a long way in terms of helping me realize that and start to play my own game,” Guhl said. “I wasn’t trying to fill Goldy’s [David Goldsmith] footsteps but instead creating my own.”
After that meeting, Guhl scored five goals in Butler’s next four games and carried that momentum to seven more regular season goals and three more in the NCAA Tournament.
He was the Co-Offensive Player of the Year in the Big East, leading the conference with 13 goals.
It took two schools and a disappointing freshman campaign, but Brandon Guhl finally started being Brandon Guhl again on the soccer field.
“He had to believe in himself,” Dick said. “That’s the number one thing that he believes he belongs on that field or on this team or else it is not going to go well.”
19 goals later, it is safe to say that Guhl found that belief and that he’s made this transfer to Butler more than worth it.