RICHMOND, VA -- Richmond Kickers star forward, Rob Ukrop, announced today his plans to retire from professional soccer after an 11-year career with the Kickers.
“Today, I want to announce my retirement from professional soccer,” announces Ukrop. “Never in my most optimistic dreams would I have believed that I would be blessed with the opportunity to be able to play professional soccer for my career. Being a part of the Richmond Kickers has meant a lot to me. My experience has been amazing due to a great front office, fabulous fans, terrific teammates and most of all a great family.”
An instrumental figure on the Kickers roster since the club’s inception, Ukrop appeared in seven games in 1993 and tallied 10 points during his first professional season. After a brief stint with the Raleigh Flyers in 1994, Ukrop was chosen for the USISL All-Star game in 1995 and was selected as the League and U.S. Open Cup Final MVP as the Kickers won both titles.
Drafted by the New England Revolution (MLS) in 1996, Ukrop scored the first two goals in the history of that franchise, returning to the Kickers mid-season.
He was the Kickers second leading scorer in 2003 (6 goals, 3 assists, 15 points) after helping the team reach the A-League Championship game in 2002. During the 2004 season, Rob was a consistent threat off the bench, appearing in 17 games and was named A-League Player of the Week for a heroic goal and assist in stoppage time against Puerto Rico on July 30th. Ukrop has three career hat tricks (1993, 1996 and 1999) and holds numerous club records including career goals (69), career assists (29), career points (167) and matches played career (222).
“Success on the field is only a small part of the experience,” Ukrop explains. “I find there is something more important to me than winning and losing, the ability to make a difference in my community. I know I have done my best to be a positive role model both on and off the field and I’m hopeful that my efforts were contagious for others.”
Ukrop’s experience extends to the international level as he represented the United States at the World University Games in 1993 as the team’s leading scorer and has played on the U.S. National “B” team.
“We are forever grateful to Rob for helping build this organization into what it is today, comments Richmond Kickers General Manager Paul Sterbenz. “Year after year, through his work on the field and off, Rob has helped grow this great sport, he has helped build our fan base and he has helped cultivate our community relationships”
“It could be argued that Rob has probably done more to put this organization on the map than anyone else,” continues Sterbenz. “He has certainly created many exciting memories for the city of Richmond and its loyal fans.”
A 1993 graduate of Davidson College, Rob is considered to be the greatest soccer player to wear a Wildcat uniform. Earning the Adi Dasler Award as the most outstanding college senior, he was runner-up for the Hermann Award in 1992. The two-time All-American holds Davidson career records for goals, assists and points, plus single season records for goals and points. Ukrop’s point total of 184 is almost double that of the next closest Wildcat and is tied for 12th in NCAA history. On January 24, 2004, Ukrop was inducted into the Davidson Athletics Hall of Fame and is the only player in Davidson history to have his jersey (#6) retired.
“There are no words to describe Rob’s contribution to the Kickers,” adds Richmond Kickers President Tom Depcrynksi. “He has given his all to be a role model for our organization and has represented us well in the community. We are pleased Rob will continue to work with us to spread the good word of the Richmond Kickers. I have learned much from this young man and what it means to be committed to a worthy cause.”
In addition, Rob is committed to the youth in the community and has made over 700 appearances in eight years at school festivals, DARE graduations, SOL kickoffs, Cub Scout Banquets, church and youth group gatherings and numerous middle and high school graduations. He is active with Meals on Wheels, the Salvation Army and the YMCA and is a featured speaker on goal setting and reminding young people of the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.
“I’ve got a job of trying to replace the irreplaceable,” remarks Richmond Kickers Head Coach Leigh Cowlishaw. “Obviously 231 appearances, 70 goals, 30 assists only tells half the story. Rob is a wonderful team leader, a great entertainer and whenever he’s on the field, the drama and the suspense rises. He’s a natural goal scorer and that is very hard to find.”