5 minutes with… Dusty Page

By Abraham Murguia

Dusty Page, men’s soccer senior center back, has seen a steady rise in his playing time and his role each season at NIU, and he’s picking up academic awards along the way.

Page has notched one assist in the team’s first four games this season after recording only one goal in 17 games last season. He is also a 4.0 student and was elected to the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, made the 2013 CoSIDA District 5 Academic All-District Team and was named to the Academic All-MAC Team.

Page and two other representatives from the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee discussed the balance between scholarly and athletic pursuit for student-athletes with NCAA President Mark Emmert. An article about the discussion appeared in the summer 2014 issue of NCAA Champion Magazine.

Northern Star: Can you talk about your meeting with Mark Emmert on NCAA Champion Magazine and how the experience was for you?

Dusty Page: Yeah, that opportunity was presented to me basically as a result of my position on National [Student-Athlete Advisory Committee], which is equivalent to student government except for athletics. On that, I represent the Mid-American Conference, so I was meeting Mark Emmert on behalf of Division I student-athletes, and it was essentially a conversation about the current state of college athletics like all the things going on and the different changes. It was great to hear what he [had] to say firsthand because he does everything day to day and has control over it. So, it was interesting to talk to him.

NS: How many offers did you have other than NIU and why did you ultimately choose to play NIU?

DP: When it came down to it, I was down to four schools that I was seriously considering, but one of the main reasons I chose here was that the coaches were so committed to me. They came to watch me play at least seven to 10 times before actually making me an offer, so I knew that they were invested in me as a player. I love[d] the facilities down here and everybody I met, and it just seemed like a program and a sports department that’s on the rise.

NS: How would you describe [head] coach [Eric] Luzzi, and how would you compare him to other coaches you’ve had?

DP: If I had to describe Luzzi in one word it would be passionate. He undoubtedly cares a lot about soccer and about the team. I think he compares pretty similarly to a lot of the coaches [in] that they’ve all had a little bit of a fiery personality but are genuine good guys, as well. He definitely has soccer knowledge, and it’s good to see him put so much great support and care [in]to the team.

NS: As a senior, how do you help out the younger players on the team?

DP: One of the big challenges of being a freshman or newcomer here is just being able to balance school work with athletics and everything else going on in your life. What I try to do is just be an ear to all of those guys and just say, ‘Hey, if you ever need to talk about something that’s stressing you out or if you are struggling with anything you can always talk to me.’ Especially school-wise, I do fairly well in school so just being able to be a resource for some guys is always something I like to do.

NS: How do you help the team mentally in terms of motivation after having two losses in a row?

DP: One thing I’ve always heard is that you learn more from losses than you do from wins. I think that would be especially true after this weekend. We learned a lot about our team. We learned a lot of soccer things, but I think more importantly we learned that no matter what our situation is, our team isn’t one that’s going to fold or give up. We are going to keep fighting no matter what. In order to recover we just have to work on a few tactical things, and also there are a few injuries to overcome, but again, we have the right mentality and we are going to fight through it.

NS: You scored [154 career] goals in high school. Do you ever feel like you may prefer attacking over defending, or is that something that has never crossed your mind?

DP: My high school was a very small high school. There were a lot of different players on that team that didn’t have as much experience as I did. So, playing more of an attacking role was a bit easier in that scenario. But, I’ve always known that playing defender, particularly center back, has always been my best position and where I’ve shined most on the field. So, I’ve never really seen myself in an attacking role, except maybe late in a game here at NIU, throwing number forward. My real chance for attacking is on set pieces and being a bigger player, getting my head on the ball and being fearless … in the air. So, that’s basically the extent of my attacking contribution.

NS: What is the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make at the college level and how have you improved on that over the years?

DP: My biggest adjustment has probably just been the speed of the game. I played for an academy team at the top level of youth soccer, but coming into college it’s another level higher, even more than you’d expect. So, one thing that I’ve had to clean up ever since my freshman year is just my technical ability, my ability on the ball, limiting the amount of time between touches and playing quick short passes. The way I have been working on it is just repetition. Especially in the spring season, when you get a lot of rest and go as an individual player more so than in the fall, that really helps me contribute to growth.