Welcome to the team: Men’s soccer edition

The four international Butler first-years sitting at the Selick Bowl after practice. From left to right: Quint Breitkreuz, Nick Okoro, Philip Halvorsen, Henri Kumwenda (not interviewed). Photo by Lauren Hough.  

JAKE KAUFMAN | SPORTS REPORTER | jfkaufman@butler.edu

‘Welcome to the Team’ is a Q&A series where the Collegian sits down with first-year student-athletes who are entering their first season at Butler University. These articles will address why they chose Butler, what they hope to get out of their first season, and some personal tidbits that you won’t find anywhere else. The Butler Collegian will bring you these articles in weekly installments.

This week, sports reporter Jake Kaufman sat down with three first-years who are playing for Butler’s men’s soccer team. All three of them are international players, who have only lived in the states for around a month. 

 

Nick Okoro

Nick Okoro is a 5-foot-9 forward from Birmingham, England. Fun Facts: Knows a bit of Romanian and can also somewhat play the piano. 

Jake Kaufman: At what point in your life did you begin to realize that you were good enough to play at the Division 1 level? Also do you have a specific moment in your career that you’d consider a turning point?

Nick Okoro: So I’ve always been in a professional football environment in England. I was playing with a local team in England, a championship team, a second division team, I had one team that was the best team in England, and I’ve always done well when I was there. When I got the opportunity to come play in the States and play D-I, I kind of thought, if I was good enough to play soccer there [England] then I can handle myself out here in America, so that was it really.

JK: So do you also have a specific turning point in your career where you got to the next level as a player?

NO: I’ve always thought about coming over to the States, but when I had a conversation with Coach Snape, the head coach, he was just so influential to me coming here. He talked about “I’ll be challenged here,” “I’ll be revitalized,” “I’ll be an important member of the team,” and it just made me fall in love with the game all over again, so I thought it would be stupid not to come out here. 

JK: Adding on to that, how influential was Coach Snape in your decision to come to Butler? 

NO: I would say 90% [of the reason] literally, he was really a big influence on me coming here, he spoke to my mom, spoke to me countless times, I had other offers to go elsewhere, but Coach Snape was really adamant about me coming here. He said I would be a valued member of the team, and yeah if it were anyone else I probably would have gone somewhere else, but because of how adamant and wanting me to come before even being part of the team, I felt like I had to come here. 

JK: So you spent almost all of your pre-college life living in the UK, in fact, I recently found out that you have only lived in the US for about a month. What would you say has been the biggest cultural difference between here and back home?

NO: So obviously in the States everything is so much bigger really. Bigger foods, bigger roads, everything is just bigger literally, because England is actually an island at the end of the day. I would say like socially people here are just so much more willing to help you and go out of their way to do so. I was staying with Ben Minor, one of the sophomores on the team, for a few days before we moved onto campus. He and his family were so nice to me. They went to Target to help me buy my stuff before I moved into the dorm and even helped me move in and that type of stuff, so [them] doing things like that before they even knew me properly. They were so happy to help me and everything so yeah people are just so much more willing to help you over here as compared to England.

JK: What’s the #1 thing you’re most excited about/looking forward to this season aside from just being here?

NO: Literally winning games, wanting to win games on the field all the time. We didn’t have the best start to the season, but after the win last Friday, hopefully it can be like a turning point for us this season. I’m happy that it came early on so I just want to win games, meet new people and yeah do the best I can off the field as well, make sure I attend to my studies and stay on top of things.

JK: I remember you mentioned before that Netflix is one of your biggest hobbies outside of soccer, can you remind me what shows you are watching? 

NO: So I’m currently watching Peaky Blinders, because it’s like reminding me of where I’m from, so Peaky Blinders is like a gangster show in Birmingham where I’m from, but I feel like my favorites are Breaking Bad, Prison Breaks, Top Boy, the list goes on. When I can watch, I watch.

JK: What is your major and do you have any idea of what you’d like to do with it afterwards?

NO: I am a marketing major. As for if I know what I want to do with it yet, not really. So I’m taking marketing because I’ve always had a passion for business and things, pitching ideas, sharing ideas, getting people on board, so I’ve had like a passion for marketing almost, but never tried to monetize it or anything, so I wanted to get a degree in that, so hopefully after my soccer career I can get a job in that field, do well in that, and it will help me long term as well. 

JK: So I remember before that you told me that your favorite social media platform is Instagram, do you have a specific reason why that is, or a thing that makes it stand out to you?

NO: Not really. To be fair I would say Instagram and Tiktok. For Tiktok, I am literally just on it all of the time, watching all different types of videos, but I think Instagram is so good for getting your name out there, connecting with other athletes, other people, [and] seeing profiles. So yeah they’re both really great apps, but I think to get my profile out there, Instagram is definitely the superior app. 

JK: Who would you say is the funniest guy on the team and why?

NO: To me it’s DJ [Hooks]. From the first day I met that guy, DJ has been so welcoming to me and just really helped me get settled. We could speak about things that I couldn’t really speak about with the other guys, but obviously now that I have made bonds and friendships with the rest of them we can laugh about certain things, but from day one DJ was always cracking jokes and like helps me with things, so he’s the definitely the funniest on the team. Always has a story to tell me as well. 

JK: I know that you shouted out what Ben Minor has done for you earlier, but can you talk about what the entire team environment has meant to you so far?

NO: Literally it’s just a locker room filled with people, motivated guys who just want to help each other become the best that they can be. I remember Coach Snape telling me this before I even came and to me I was actually quite shocked because in most dressing rooms in England, they have little cliques where some part of the changing room doesn’t like another part of the changing room, but literally here the soccer guys just have such a tight knit group of people, individuals in themselves, but when we come together we support each other as a team on and off the pitch. I am just so inspired by the team ethos and how everyone is just working toward a common goal, being the best for themselves which in turn helps the team.

JK: Do you have any special shoutouts to people that would you like to give?

NO: First and foremost, I want to thank God for what he has done for me to get me to this position. I want to thank my mom, my brothers who have always supported me, all of my friends back home who got me here, supporting me along the way, so yeah just those people my friends, my family, and first and foremost God he has just always been that rock in my life.

JK: Lastly, what is the biggest thing you think you bring to the team? It can be a skill, mentality.

NO: I would say the biggest things are mentality and experience. I’ve always wanted to be the best that I can be, put myself in environments where I have taken myself out of my comfort zone to thrive in an environment that I thought was the best for me, being away from home where I can focus. Also my experience playing at the top level in English Soccer as well as being around some players who have played in the Premier League, playing in the championship for international football, helping explain to people on the team who haven’t been around that level of greatness what it looks like on and off the pitch and doing everything I can to be the best version of myself and help everybody.

 

Phillip Halvorsen

Phillip Halvorsen is a 6-foot-2 Midfielder from Oslo, Norway. Fun Fact: He was actually born on December 31. 

JK: When did you first start playing soccer? Also do you have a first specific memory of you playing?

Phillip Halvorsen: I started playing soccer for my local team when I was four years old. My first memory from soccer was my first tournament I ever played. I couldn’t sleep that night, I think I woke up six or seven times.

JK: Who was your favorite soccer player growing up? 

PH: I have always been a big Messi fan, but my father, Dag Halvorsen was probably the one I looked up to the most. 

JK: What would you say has been the biggest change in soccer in Norway versus here in the States?

 

PH: Over here, the game is way more physical. You need to be stronger and be able to run a lot in order to succeed.

JK: What do you think has been the biggest cultural difference between Norway and here?

PH: Definitely the people. They are way more outgoing in the US, which I find quite nice, especially being new here.

JK: What are your favorite hobbies outside of soccer?

PH: I’m a bit of a gamer, and I also enjoy golfing and skiing.

JK: Who do you think is the funniest player one the team?

PH: I would say either Hemi Nasser or Tommy Visser, although it’s very hard to choose one.

JK: Are there any upperclassmen that you felt have really taken you under their wing?

PH: Everyone has been really nice and helpful towards me since I came here. I could probably list the whole team, but Gabriel Gjergi really helped me settle in.

JK: What is your favorite food from back home and your favorite here in America so far? 

PH:  The best food I have tried here so far is Chipotle. From back home, I really miss my parents’ homemade food.

JK: What is the biggest thing you think you bring to the team? 

PH:  I think I bring a lot of game sense to the team. I understand the game well, and I think I have a pretty good pass on me. I can also win aerial and ground duels.

JK:  Lastly, do you have anyone else that you would like to specifically mention or shoutout?

PH:  Again, I could list quite a few people, but I want to give a special shoutout to my family. Dag, Beate, Victor and Sandra. I wouldn’t be here without them! 

 

Quint Breitkreuz

Quint Breitkreuz is a 6-foot-1 midfielder from Hamburg, Germany. Fun Fact: He is the middle child of 7 siblings. Disclaimer: Breitkreuz is a member of The Butler Collegian sports section.

JK: When did you first start playing soccer?

 

Quint Breitkreuz: I first started playing soccer when I was three years old. 

JK: So you spent almost all of your pre-college life living in Germany. What would you say has been the biggest cultural difference between here and back home? 

QB: The main difference between Germany and here is that here in America everything here is bigger and more spread out, like if you want to go shopping and stuff you definitely are going to need a car. The people here are also very kind and nice.

JK: I know that it was short due to the pandemic but can you tell me about your experience playing for your home club Teutonia 05 Ottensen in the Regionalliga?

QB: I learned a lot during that season especially from the older guys. They helped me to improve both as a player and person, and I’m glad I had that opportunity. 

JK: What made you decide to come to Butler? 

QB: The experience I could have in a new country and also the combination between soccer and studying. I also really get a chance to improve my English.

JK: What are your favorite hobbies outside of soccer?

QB: Hanging out with friends or sleeping takes up a lot of my free time. 

JK: What is your favorite food from back home and your favorite here in America so far? 

QB: My favorite food from back home has to be my mom’s lasagna, and my favorite food here so far would probably be the pork chop made by Ben Minor’s dad. 

JK: How have you liked Butler so far?

QB: I have liked Butler very much so far. I have met a lot of very nice people here and the players on the team have helped me integrate well to the squad. Also, the whole campus and the conditions of everything are very good. 

JK: Are there any upperclassmen that you have felt have really taken you under your wing?

QB: I really feel like everybody did. But I stayed at Ben Minor’s house so the whole family helped me out a lot. Also all the boys I stayed with at his place like Kyle [Hagerman], Tommy [Visser] and Nick [Grazziano]. Besides them, Gabriel [Gjergji] helped me with telephone and bank account situations which I really appreciated. 

JK: Lastly do you have anyone else that you would like to specifically mention or shoutout?

QB: Just everyone on my team really, they’ve all been great.

 

These interviews were edited for length and clarity.

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