Marcus Godinho put plans to study medicine at one of the best universities in America on hold to try to make it as a professional footballer.
It’s bleakly ironic that this dream was placed in jeopardy by several appointments with doctors as a knee problem threatened to derail his career. All is not lost however, far from it. He has swapped the Ivy League for the top of the league.
The Canadian right-back made his latest return to the Hearts first team on Saturday as they maintained their place as leaders with a 2-1 win over Aberdeen. He’s also now aiming to put into practice what he’s learned over three frustrating periods on the sidelines by enrolling for a natural sciences degree in January.
He has been given a reminder that football is not forever. Indeed, it can be cruelly taken from you through injury and mishap.
The 21-year-old’s problem was fluid in the knee. It led to him missing the bulk of the 2016-17 campaign, his first at the club. Although he made a return last season after a period on loan at Berwick Rangers he was sidelined again in the final weeks of the campaign. He feared the recurrent problem might be career ending.
“The outlook was quite negative at first, which was a hard thing to cope with,” said Godinho. “They [specialists] weren’t really positive about it but as rehab started to go on I started to become more and more hopeful.
“I’ve coped better this time, my knee’s settled and it’s been great. Last time around it wasn’t great and I think I had fluid from the start. My knee feels as good as new now and I’m really happy with the way it’s went.”
The outlook has brightened to the extent he is considering combining football and studies. “I’m actually thinking of starting a university course in January,” he explained. “I’ve not decided exactly what but I think something to do with natural sciences and we’ll go from there to have it as a back up. We’ve got so much time anyway so I may as well get it done.
“I was already considering it before football, I was thinking about the academic route. It was always in my head but that [scare] has really shown me that I should really get it done sooner rather than prolong it.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to decide to go professional or go on a scholarship to the US. I figured you can’t go back to football but you can always go back to education so that was my decision.
“I hadn’t really gone in to specifics but I would’ve ideally looked at a few of the Ivy League schools or if that didn’t work out, staying at the University of Toronto back home.”
He heads to face Dundee at Dens Park tonight in what is an early test for the knee after withstanding a near-80 minute run-out against Aberdeen.
“I feel good,” he said. “My knee’s fine today so if I’m to play tomorrow then I’ll be ready. Ideally I probably would have played a few games [before two matches in four days] but I’m quite confident with it right now.”