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Van De Casteele Wins BIG EAST Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year

Feb 14, 2013, 1:26 AM EDT

photo by Kaitlyn Kiely photo by Kaitlyn Kiely

A three year starter on a perennially premier squad, Grant Van De Casteele has reeled in a myriad of accolades during his time at Notre Dame. The senior defender from Plano, Tex. earned a spot on both the All-BIG EAST Third Team and the All-Great Lakes Region Third Team for his efforts this past season. He was named the Most Outstanding Defensive Performer of the 2012 BIG EAST Championship, which was won by the Irish. As a junior, Van De Casteele was once named the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Week, and as a sophomore was similarly granted a spot on a College Soccer News Team of the Week.

Van De Casteele is an excellent player, as these awards indicate. But he is an equally stellar student. Van De Casteele has been named a BIG EAST Academic All-Star every year during his time in South Bend and boasts a 3.715 GPA as a finance major in the renowned Mendoza College of Business. The senior’s dominance both on the field and in the classroom was recognized Tuesday when Van De Casteele was named the 2012-13 American Eagle Outfitters BIG EAST Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Van De Casteele is the second male Notre Dame athlete to win the prestigious award, joining track and field star Errol Williams, the 1998 winner.

“Shock was my initial reaction to hearing about winning the award,” Van De Casteele said. “I wasn’t really expecting it, but was very honored. To be able to keep the Notre Dame legacy of academic as well as athletic excellence going is a proud moment for me.”

Not a fan of individual awards, Van De Casteele took a bit of a different approach to the most recent addition to his mantelpiece.

“I really believe that individual awards are inappropriate, especially when it comes to soccer,” Van De Casteele said. “So much of an individual’s success depends on the team’s success. But I guess this one is more me on my own, me in the classroom, which is nice. This one I’m ok with. It’s probably the most prestigious honor I’ve ever been awarded.”

His ability to excel both athletically and academically was honed at an early age.

“I developed time management skills really early,” Van De Casteele said. “Ever since I’ve been eleven I’ve been playing competitive club soccer, so I’d be going from school to practice all the time. High school made me refine those skills, because I’d go from my high school practice to practice with my club team.”

Despite this early crash course in juggling school and sports, the senior’s academic success was largely a product of Notre Dame faculty members and teachers.

“The support staff here is really helpful,” Van De Casteele said. “The student athlete services, especially Chad Grotegut, have been really supportive of me. Any time I need something, he’s there to help me out.”

In addition to academic and athletic excellence, community outreach is another important aspect of the award. Van De Casteele has been a steady presence in the South Bend community since he first stepped foot on campus nearly four years ago.

“A lot of community service that I do is with the team,” Van De Casteele said. “Much of the community here is not very wealthy, and we’ll go out and have soccer clinics for them. Our coach will give us a message that he wants us to give to the kids.”

But the senior often goes above and beyond the service he is required to do with his teammates.

“Last spring, a program at Notre Dame allowed me to work with elementary school children in a tutoring and mentoring relationship,” Van De Casteele said. “It let me work one on one with a child. I tutored my kid, Chris, with the hope of helping him do better on state standardized tests. But you can’t help getting to know them further.”

The accolade comes with a $4,000 scholarship that can be applied to graduate or professional studies. The BIG EAST’s Academic Affairs Committee was in charge of the selection process.

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