One Team All Green

The Player’s Corner | Austin Buxton, Men’s Soccer

Clark Clifford

My time at UVU began earlier than most of my teammates. I began attending school in 2013, where I would spend an hour each day on the field or weight room with six other guys who were all there for the same purpose. Each of us coming from a different part of Utah. We all knew each other prior to our years at UVU because we all played against each other for separate teams. When you meet someone on the soccer field, your first impressions are likely more negative than positive, however, we became close friends really quickly. It was clear we all had the same goal in mind. That goal was to put Utah on the map.

My first season began and ended in quick fashion. The college soccer season doesn’t last long, and ours didn’t last as long as had hoped. Losing in the conference tournament we didn’t live up to our own expectations. But, what was clear was the statement that we made throughout the university as well as the conference. We showed more promise than anything else. Having a young, inexperienced team, it looked as though we were going to have a successful career at UVU.

Although stats weren’t always in my favor, my second year was sort of a breakout year for me, if you will. My second season is when we really started to see ourselves put Utah on the map. We remained in the top 25 in the nation almost all year, lost in the conference finals, and garnered an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament. No one expected us to make such a splash so early on. We all knew that we had something special. Feeling as though I was playing pretty close to the top of my game, I had higher expectations than ever heading in to the following year.

The True Battle

2016 is when everything changed for me. Early on in the year I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The news was sort of surreal at the time, and I was very naive to what was to come. Not thinking about the news at all, I trained harder than I ever had before prior to the season beginning. August came quick, and with that came a routine check-up that I had done every few months since being diagnosed.

UVU men’s soccer player Austin Buxton during one of his chemotherapy treatments. Photo courtesy of Austin Buxton.

Days before our home opener versus Washington, what was a top-25 matchup, I received news that was devastating and overwhelming.

I had no choice but to start chemotherapy treatment days later. Had it been up to me, I would have waited for soccer season to finish to begin treatments. This team meant everything to me. I still remember the phone call I had with Coach (Greg) Maas later that night. I told him that I would do it all. Honestly, my thought was that I was going to play soccer, attend school full-time, and do chemotherapy. If that doesn’t show you how naïve I was, I don’t know what will.

Still with soccer on my mind, I knew that it wasn’t to be that year. The home opening match against Washington was an emotional match for me. I had never missed a game to injury, and I had to sit and watch as my team battled, even when they went a man down. I still remember the feeling after watching my team score the opening goal, and finishing the game with a W. They were doing it for one purpose. I could feel it, and that was to support me.

The entire season felt like the team was doing nothing but supporting me. But, they were also winning game after game. It was eye-opening to watch from the bench because I had never been a part of a team that talented. It was incredible to see the support and outpouring from UVU and from the community while I went through treatment after treatment. Having to go through that battle without the support I received seems like it would have been near impossible.

The Return

2017 came too quick for me and I was still struggling to find my identity on the field. Battling cancer was rough to say the least. But training to come back from sitting out for so long was just as hard. It took a long time for me to feel confident and feel that I had my game back. The entire year was full of learning. I was lucky enough to marry my beautiful wife Lexi and return to the soccer field in the same year. The year also brought multiple injuries and surgeries to battle through in order for me to make it to the field.

Austin Buxton dribbles past an Incarnate Word defender on Sept. 29, 2018 at Clyde Field. Photo by Clark Clifford.

I decided to return to UVU for the 2018 season to finish out my career. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to put on the jersey again and step out on Clyde Field. 2018 could not have been a better season to end on. It was full of new accomplishments, but more than all it was filled with new experiences that I will forever be grateful for. My time at UVU was longer than most freshmen would anticipate, but it came to a close quickly. My experience at UVU was nothing short of remarkable and I will forever be indebted to this team, to this program, and to this university. It is safe to say that we achieved our goal of putting Utah on the map.

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