#TBT Big Ten Medal of Honor - Emily Zurrer 2009
April 17, 2014
One of the most prestigious conference awards in college athletics, the Big Ten Medal of Honor was first awarded in 1915 to one student-athlete from the graduating class of each university who had "attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work." In 2014, the conference celebrates the 100th anniversary of this prestigious award.
Born in British Columbia, Zurrer chose to attend the University of Illinois and ended her collegiate career as one of the most decorated players in Illinois history. She was the first three-time All-American in program history and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors three years in a row. Additionally, Zurrer was named Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Year during her sophomore campaign. During her tenure on the back line, Illinois produced 42 shutouts and gave up the second-fewest goals in program history in 2008, allowing just 19. While attending Illinois, Zurrer was given the opportunity to represent Canada at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing the summer before going into her senior season, marking one of the most memorable moments of her life and career.
During her time at Illinois, Zurrer was also very active off the field, taking a lead role in Illinois' Hometown Heroes program, which includes visits to local elementary schools and seniors' centers, in addition to involvement with Read Across America, Carle Pediatrics, Relay for Life, Yankee Ridge After School Program, Crisis Nursery Holiday Shop and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Zurrer also was the recipient of the Big Ten Medal of Honor in 2009, recognizing her achievement on the field and in the classroom.
"I am so honored that I was chosen to be the recipient of this prestigious award," Zurrer said. "I think that it is a testament to the hard working mentality that Coach Rayfield instilled in us since I stepped onto the U of I campus as a freshman, and to be recognized as a student athlete for your achievements both on the field and in the classroom is what we all work towards.
"My time at Illinois was one of the most pivotal and enjoyable times in my career. I was fortunate enough to be coached by the one and only Janet Rayfield, who I still owe a lot of my success to today. She instilled the meaning of hard work, dedication and a winning mentality into us the moment we put on the Illinois jersey. Not only that, I was able to live and play with some of the best teammates, and now lifelong friends, for four years. It doesn't get much better than that."
"I have been fortunate enough to let soccer take me around the world, playing in all sorts of different countries and environments," Zurrer said. "While sometimes the constant travel and living out of your suitcase lifestyle can get tough, I truly am living my dream. I know that I won't be able to do this forever, so I try to never take this opportunity for granted. Right now I am in Gothenburg, Sweden and I absolutely love it. Getting paid to play a sport that I love and travel the world is a childhood dream come true."
Zurrer played for the Vancouver Whitecaps during the 2010 season and then moved on to play in Germany and Sweden. On January 11, 2013, as part of the NWSL Player Allocation, Zurrer joined the Seattle Reign FC in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL). She has represented Canada since the age of 15 and since has competed in the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship, FIFA Women's World Cup 2011, the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
On a very different track from her soccer career, Zurrer launched a frozen yogurt food truck business in 2012 with her former Canadian teammate, Selenia Iacchelli. Zurrer and Iacchelli have been playing together since they were both 15 years old. Iacchelli was playing for the Nebraska Cornhuskers while Zurrer represented the Orange & Blue at Illinois.
"Off the field, I started a food truck business after the Olympics with one of my best friends," Zurrer said. "I have wanted to start my own business since I was about nine years old, so to be able to make this dream a reality has been very rewarding and a lot of fun and hard work."
Zurrer is taking her soccer dream in stride, and has plenty to do in preparation for the future of her career, as one of many possibilities could even be a third Olympics in Rio in 2016.
"As I get older I am taking things one year at a time," Zurrer said. "I am signed for my team in Sweden for this next season until October, and then after that I plan to go into residency with the Canadian National Team in Vancouver in preparation for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup which is being held in Canada. On the international scene, I don't think it can get much better than representing your country in a World Cup at home, so it would be pretty amazing to be a part of."