Sep 3, 2013

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By Doug Richards

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - Omar Vallejo and his family are used to making difficult decisions, so when he transferred from Ohio State in 2012 and had the opportunity to select a less-taxing academic major, the choice for him was simple. Vallejo, who is in his senior campaign with the men's soccer program, continued to major in finance, even though some of his Ohio State credits would not count toward his degree at UCF, causing him to delay graduation.

He could have selected a course of study that required less attention, but instead chose to remain on a difficult, yet rewarding path.

"I knew it would be a challenge," Vallejo said. "I have a drive to be successful. More than anything, I want to be successful. I know that business puts me in a good position to accomplish what I want to do."

Vallejo credits his parents for that drive and confidence in making tough choices. In an effort to provide their son with better educational and athletic opportunities, Juan Carlos and Concepcion Vallejo elected to send Omar from their home in Reynosa, Mexico, to an Episcopal school in Austin, Texas. The move to the United States allowed Omar to continue to pursue and education and play soccer at the same time, an opportunity that does not exist in his hometown, a city marred by drug cartels and violence.

"Mexico is going through a tough situation. My parents made a good decision for me by sending me over here. Things are getting worse and worse (there)," he said.

Growing up in a soccer-crazed country, Vallejo dreamed of one day playing professionally. The forward has solid credentials - he was among the NCAA leaders in assists with eight as a junior - but his priorities have now changed.

"When I decided to come to the U.S. and go to college here, some of my goals shifted. I decided that soccer was my source to get to where I wanted to be when it came to colleges and studying, but I knew that (soccer) was only an option. I knew that I wanted to be successful in some way, but it did not necessarily have to be for soccer."

At UCF, he is experiencing achievement in the classroom, where he boasts a strong grade-point average and is poised to receive his degree next summer.

"His success in the classroom speaks to his personality and work ethic," head coach Bryan Cunningham said. "Omar always challenges himself to get better on the soccer field, and does the same academically as well."

Vallejo is not sure how he plans to use his finance degree, but expects that his background as a student-athlete and bilingualism will be attractive to employers. He says that he is striving to not only achieve success for himself, but also for his parents, who made the difficult decision to move their son six hours away to another country.

"I am very thankful. My motivation is my mom and my dad," he said. "They made a big sacrifice for me to be where I am. I look at that as motivation to be successful at the end of the day."



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