UMD soccer player stays close to Jewish roots

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By Ben Weiner
For the Mitzpeh
@mrhockey929

Having a strong work ethic makes balancing academics, sports and Jewish studies all possible for Maryland Men’s Soccer defender Aaron Franco.

“Both on and off the field he gives nothing but the best,” said Michael Heitzmann, a freshman finance major,  teammate and best friend of Franco. “It’s really admirable how hard he works and how much he cares about school and soccer.”

Franco, a sophomore finance major, grew up in Miami, Florida, where he attended Scheck Hillel Community School and was a four-time MVP on the soccer team.

Franco said growing up in a Jewish community and attending Jewish schools  allowed for his religious roots to always be part of his everyday life.

“I pray every single day, say the Shema two times a day, and wear tefillin as much as possible,” Franco said. “I attend Shabbat dinners as well when my soccer schedule doesn’t conflict.”

Born of Peruvian descent, the 19-year-old is the son of Alberto and Rossana Franco. He said his competitive factor stems from his father who played tennis at Yale University.

Before joining the Maryland soccer team, Franco was co-captain of the Boca United U-18 club team alongside Terrapins’ teammate Sebastian Elney.

Aaron Franco plays for the UMD soccer team. Photo courtesy of Aaron Franco.

Aaron Franco plays for the UMD soccer team. Photo courtesy of Aaron Franco.

Franco played a large role in guiding Boca United to the State Cup Championship, three Disney Showcase titles and a Jefferson Cup championship.

Franco’s scholarship for this university made him the first athlete ever from Scheck Hillel Community School to play Division I athletics.

Yet through all his success, Franco tries to stay humble.

“Being on the soccer team is a true honor and a blessing,” Franco said.

Franco said many factors influenced his decision to come to this university.

“I love that there is a big Jewish population and that it is a great school,” Franco said. “But the fact that such an amazing soccer program gave me an offer, really did it for me.”

Heitzmann said he looks up to him and feels he is the type of guy every team wants.

“Aaron is a great teammate to have,” Heitzmann said. “He’s always encouraging on and off the field and has a great work ethic that I’m sure a lot more of our teammates really admire.”

“He’s very vocal on the field which makes playing with him a lot easier too,” Heitzmann added.

Heitzmann said he considers Franco not only a great teammate and friend, but a great roommate too.

“Off the field he’s my roommate and I couldn’t ask for a better one, honestly,” Heitzmann said.

As they are both finance majors, Heitzmann said Franco “helps with school and around the apartment and is always there for me when I need it.”

In his sophomore year, Franco saw action in the Terrapins’ wins over the University of South Florida, Hofstra and Michigan.

Franco and Heitzmann both said their fondest memory together was winning the Big Ten Conference Championship for the second consecutive year and completing the undefeated perfect regular season in 2016.

Franco said he is thankful for the opportunity he has been given to play soccer at such a prestigious university.

“I get to go out and do what I love every single day at such a very high level,” Franco said. “What more could I ask for?”

 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article named Franco’s school as the Samuel Scheck Hillel Community School. However, the school has been known as the Scheck Hillel Community School as of 2012.

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