ARLINGTON, Va. – Omar Canty, who arrived at Marymount in the fall of 1995, says it was enjoyable to watch the rise of the men's soccer program under Head Coach Keith Moser.
But if he wasn't so modest, Canty would point out he helped that transformation.
"I was there when the program was sub .500 and then ultimately as a junior and senior we were beating ranked teams and ranked for the first time ourselves," recalls Canty, who also played basketball for the Saints. "Seeing that transformation was enjoyable throughout my career."
"My junior year was the best year we had. We beat Hampden-Sydney in the first game of the season and they were ranked highly in the nation. It was huge and really set the tone for the season and how the team was improving," he adds. "Keith set the tone; he kind of came in and started recruiting the type of athletes he wanted. It certainly changed the culture and we started winning."
But Canty was sidetracked just briefly after graduating from nearby Chantilly High and arriving in North Arlington.
A standout soccer player in high school, he headed to a Division I school in southwest Virginia for pre-season soccer as a freshman.
"I went to Radford first. It was just the wrong decision for me. I was there for preseason in the fall of 1995," he notes.
Canty quickly called Moser, who was certainly familiar with the local standout.
"It is a funny story. He saw me at a high school game. He did not come to recruit me; he came to see another player. Next thing you know he was calling me," Canty says.
Moser had gone to a Chantilly High game to watch Rashad Robinson, a teammate of Canty.
"I am watching Rashad, and Omar is all over the place. Who is this guy?" Moser recalled. "I had some communication with him back and forth. At the last minute he changed his mind" about Radford.
Canty grew up in Mansfield, Massachusetts before his family moved to Chantilly when he was 12. He played on Virginia state travel soccer teams as a young boy.
Despite having the ability to play at the Division I level, he was part of a renaissance at Marymount, as the right winger was Second-Team All-Capital Athletic Conference in 1999 and an NSCAA All-Region in 2000.
Off the field, Moser said Canty bought into the team concept and became a team leader for a Saints' program that was ranked for the first time in men's soccer.
"The last two years of his career were phenomenal," Moser notes.
Canty also played basketball at Marymount under former coaches Webb Hatch and Chuck Driesell, who also played and coached at the Division I level.
"He was just a great athlete," Moser says of Canty. "He was fast and had vision, and that translated to basketball as well."
Canty's parents were very supportive of the program and Omar spoke to the men's team at Marymount prior to the 2016 campaign.
"He wants to be involved and give back," Moser notes.
Canty, in the Spring of 2001, had hoped to play professional soccer overseas after he had graduated from MU.
"But I blew out both patella tendons in both knees at the same time in a freak accident. I wasn't given much of a chance to run normally again, much less play soccer again," according to Canty.
He made a full recovery and was invited to the Info Sport Major League Soccer (MLS) pro combine. He was in camp with the Virginia Beach Mariners when he was injured again and decided to give up his soccer career.
Today he is married to Rebecca, his wife of 10 years, and they have three children. They live in Chantilly and Canty works for Cyber Security giant McAfee and continues to play soccer, work out and swim.
He showed that a Division III player can try out for a pro team after college.
"At the end of the day talent is talent no matter what school you are at," he said.
Editor's note: David Driver is a special consultant to the MU athletic department. He can be reached at www.davidsdriver.com