SALADO — Although it took Salado senior Costas Loullis longer than most student-athletes, he signed his national letter of intent to play soccer for Mary Hardin-Baylor on Wednesday.

“He’s very academically focused,” Eagles head coach Jared Cruddas said of Loullis. “He made the decision based on academics, as well as athletically.”

Inspired by his father, who is a podiatrist, as well as an uncle who he has witnessed having various heart problems, Loullis has known for quite some time that he wants to study pre-medicine in college as he aspires to be a cardiothoracic surgeon.

“I always feel like I want to help,” he said of his career choice. “I could do something to help not just (my uncle) but other people with that kind of background and see the smile on their face.”

Although his main goal has been to go on and study medicine, Loullis isn’t ready to walk away from the game he loves.

“I didn’t want to let soccer go, so I really tried to get schools that had a soccer team,” he said.

And it didn’t matter what division the school competed in as long as he “could play and enjoy what I have left of soccer, so I went with UMHB.”

The fact the campus is close to home helped with the decision, one that his mother, Angela, is also happy about.

“I’m proud, full of excitement and just waiting for the next level for Costas in college,” she said.

On the pitch, Loullis has made a name for himself. His Georgetown Force club soccer coach Wolfgang Suhnholz shared with Loullis’ close friends gathered in Salado’s gym that he was not only a talented player but, “he was actually one of my favorite players.”

Cruddas said the Eagles would be losing a leader on their team.

Loullis was a four-year varsity player who started every game for Salado this season, was named Academic All-State and earned Texas Association of Soccer Coaches Class 4A All-State Honorable Mention in his senior year.

The midfielder ended his high school career with a total of 83 goals.

In his first season of coaching the Eagles, Cruddas has seen how Loullis has left not just an impact on his teammates but on the next generation of soccer players, on and off the field.

The Eagles have struggled for years to advance past the second round of the playoffs but a hat trick from Loullis against Giddings this season changed all that.

“It was a sigh of relief to get past that moment,” Cruddas said, “but he was a maniac.

“The goals he scored were 40-yard breakaways and nobody could catch him, so that game got this team — and this program — over the hump.”

With graduation on the horizon, Loullis has his eyes set on his freshman season goals at UMHB.

“Work hard, keep my grades up and do my best to see if I can play.

“And if I play, I’ll show them that I can be the best I can be and do what I can to help their team succeed.”

And while he might just be playing up the road, his Eagle teammates have made his time at Salado one he’ll never forget.

“I could never forget my experience in high school,” he said. “I just love these guys and it’s the best experience of my life.”

fcardenas@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7562

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