Dom Dwyer's journey to the University of South Florida has been anything but ordinary. Now that he is in Tampa, his play has been extraordinary.
Dwyer arrived in the United States three years ago. He and two friends from his hometown club, King's Lynn in England, took the leap of faith that pursuing a future via the U.S. college route was the right path.
"There is a time when you have to decide if you want to try and play professionally in England or go try something different," Dwyer explained to Goal.com over the phone on Tuesday. "I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do and then the opportunity came up to come to America at a junior college."
Helped by the guidance of Joe McLaughlin, the former Chelsea FC captain turned scout, Dwyer landed in Texas at junior college national powerhouse Tyler JC.
"Joe [McLaughlin] told us, 'I think you will win a national championship if you go there,'" Dwyer said.
Over the next two years, Dwyer and a roster chock-full of future Division I talent accumulated a 42-game unbeaten streak, as well as two national championships. In his last season with Tyler, the striker notched 37 goals in 21 games and collected the NSCAA Junior College Division I Player of the Year honors. Simply put, he was unstoppable.
"[Dwyer] is just one of those guys who has the ability to put the ball in the net," Tyler head coach Steve Clements told Goal.com over the phone on Wednesday. "He has a nose for it and a guy like that always has a job."
"I feel hungry to score goals," Dwyer said. "I want to win games, and I know to win games you have to score more goals than the other team."
With plenty of colleges yearning for his commitment, the star junior college transfer signed with the University of South Florida along with childhood friend and Tyler teammate Kyle Nicholls.
"There are a lot of people who feel like junior college players can’t make it at a D-I level," Dwyer said. "It is about proving them wrong and proving to myself I am worth it."
In the infancy of the season, Dwyer has quieted those critics with five goals in his first five games, including two game-winners. The early-season success has been rather inconsequential for him though. His objectives are at the end of the season.
"I want to win everything," the junior said in authoritative fashion. "I won’t be satisfied with a great season. I want a winning season."
Dwyer has set his sights on a national title for the Bulls. Anything short of that means an unfulfilled year for the ruthless forward.
"We have enough talent," he said. "We need to work offensively, defensively, just bring it all together. And when it does, it is going to be something special."
The Bulls are off to a 3-1-1 start to the season, the loss and the draw coming in the most recent games for USF. The negative result against Bradley marks the first time in over two years that Dwyer had suffered a defeat.
"It was one of those days when we definitely messed up," Dwyer said about the loss. "But I feel like we needed to experience that. Feel the loss. We felt invincible. We need to know, we still need to do a job."
He went on to say that he was confident the team would bounce back even stronger in the next fixture on Saturday.
For Dwyer, his soccer journey won't end in Tampa. The next level beckons, whether that is in MLS or England, he will wait "for the best opportunity."
McLaughlin already speaks highly of his pupil and said in an email to Goal.com earlier this week that he looks "for quality players that have a chance of going pro, and Dom definitely fits the bill."
The former English Premier League star runs the Soccer Icon services, where he personally scouts every player he brings into a program that uses his connections with various college coaches to help young English players explore the United States as a development route.
McLaughlin led Dwyer to Tyler, and coach Clements has been impressed ever since with the quality of players the English scout is recommending for his program.
"Joe [McLaughlin] has a good eye for talent," Clements said. "He has sent us some really good players the last several years."
The renowned junior college coach put Dwyer in the class among the best players he has ever coached in his 18 seasons on the job.
"Damani Ralph and Dom [Dwyer] would be the best forwards I ever coached," the coach said. "Both of those guys were very good." Ralph went on to win the MLS Rookie of the Year award in 2003 with the Chicago Fire.
While Dwyer admits his ultimate dream is at the professional level, USF's leading scorer is mainly concerned about the team and winning now.
"Team goals, I think, come first," he said. "Team goals for me – to win the Big East and win the National championship."
Those are lofty goals for a program that has never advanced past the fourth round of the NCAA tournament. However, that might be for the best. Dwyer seems to thrive in uncharted territories.