When Victor Cortez is asked to define his attitude, he describes it simply as “beast mode.” Watching him play, there is clearly no other way to describe the USF junior defender, who had been playing soccer for most of his life.
Cortez grew up across the Bay, in Richmond, Calif. Cortez took his future into his own hands at a young age by getting involved with soccer. “Soccer definitely forced me to stay out of trouble,” said Cortez. He admits that many of his friends drank and did drugs at a pretty young age. He says that by hanging out with his soccer friends, he avoided a lot of dangerous encounters.
Cortez grew up in a soccer family having a father who played professionally in Columbia. With talent in his blood, Cotez feels he was always destined to be a great player. He knew he loved the game when he realized that hitting a home run in baseball was nowhere near as cool as scoring a goal in soccer.
While playing club soccer at age fourteen he attracted the attention of Olympic Development Program (ODP) scouts and was placed on the district team for the Bay Area. By age fifteen Cortez had progressed to the ODP National Team, a select group of the best young athletes in the country, and put on track to play for the U.S. National squad. One year later, Cortez was selected to study at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida where he would eat, sleep, and live soccer without any distractions. The IMG Academy is a boarding school where the U.S. National team sends athletes to attend classes while training to play for their country. Such famous soccer players as Demarcus Beasely graduated from this prestigious academy. At the age of sixteen Cortez was forced to leave home and live in a very unfamiliar place with other athletes he didn’t know.
After strong performances at IMG Academy, Cortez was selected to compete with the U.S. Men’s Under Twenty National Team during its tour of Argentina. He said, “Wearing a U.S. jersey and hearing our country’s National Anthem played in a stadium full of crazy Latin- American fans was one of the greatest sensations I have ever felt in my entire life!”
Since coming to USF Cortez has continued to work hard under Coach Erik Visser. A leader on the team, he has helped USF to win a West Coast Conference (WCC) Championship and was selected to the WCC All Freshman Team in 2007. Joining USF’s soccer team as part of a huge freshman recruiting class labeled the ‘X-Factor,” he is one of four players to live up to the high expectations. Cortez’s greatest strength is his smart defending and his ability to communicate effectively while on the field. This makes up for what he calls his biggest weakness, fitness. When asked how he motivates himself to get to practice and weights everyday he said, “All I can do is pray that my alarm goes off and I actually wake up.”
Even though practicing everyday can get tedious Victor’s physical and mental strength always prevails. His confidence in himself and his teammates is apparent in the high expectations he has for the team next year. “There is no reason why we shouldn’t win a WCC title,” says Cortez. As far as personal goals Victor is striving for WCC Player of the Year honors. Victor believes that a successful athlete must set goals that are challenging, yet reachable.
Going into his senior season at USF Cortez knows exactly what he needs to accomplish and knows exactly how to do it. This spring he said the team really needs to come together as a family and work on physical fitness and maturity. It is a young squad led by only four true seniors.
After a disappointing season last year the members of the junior class had lots of fingers pointed at them and lacked the mental toughness they needed to be a successful unit. Cortez is ready to show fans, coaches, and more importantly himself, that he can lead the team to victory next year.
After college, Cortez plans on trying to play soccer professionally, but he keeps other options open. He said, “If that doesn’t work out I think I want to go to culinary school.” Whatever he ends up doing, Victor’s passion, drive and “beast mode” attitude will take him very far.