I had a chance to chat with Kyle Altman the day before he left town to go to med school.
So this is just another ‘Farewell Kyle” interview, you’ve had several already. Is it going to be tough to give up the fame?
Not at all. Not at all. No. This story has been going around so much, I was like, ‘Isn’t everyone bored with this already?’ If you think about it, it’s been the same story for three years now. There haven’t been too many new developments, except for this time we’ve made the decision to move on.
Each year we add how many times you’ve gotten the deferral…
Or another witty comment from the dean that he passes along to me, like, “Don’t even bother asking for a fourth.” There are pieces that keep changing a little bit, but it’s pretty much the same story.
Going back to school full time is going to be a bit of a change.
I’m ready for a change.
It seems like you’ve come to peace with it, with your direction.
Yeah. No problem. I’ve made my decision. I’m doing it. No backing down now. Don’t want to fail.
When I asked friends what I should ask you at this interview, someone wanted me to ask if you like soccer.
Not so much, no.
This must be a tough day, tough weekend for you.
What are some of the things you’re going to miss the most?
Competition. You know, when you’re raised in a competitive environment, with my brothers, we were constantly competing for everything, and you get certain aspects of that in other parts of life, but in terms of competing every single day – I love that. I think it was Chris Clements, a few years ago, he made fun of me a lot because I got really pissed off after losing a game in training. I punted the ball, we were playing in the Sports Hall [at NSC], and I punted the ball into the ceiling and he made fun of me from there out, saying ‘it’s just practice, you can chill.’
But it’s not.
It’s not. You get into it and it’s the adrenaline rush and competitive spirit and I just love being able to put myself out there and compete and win.
I think that’s going to be a good asset to have when you do become a doctor, when you’re a surgeon. You’re going to be battling different opponents – the injury or illness – but you’ll be battling as fiercely for whatever surgery you’re doing, for the patient. I think you can channel that.
I’m hoping so.
The other thing I’m going to miss are the guys. Most of the friends I’ve made in my life have been through soccer. Taking the field with some of your best friends is a privilege and it’s a great experience I’m going to miss.
And competing against some along the way, although they’re not friends on the pitch, are they? Before and after the game, maybe.
Exactly. A former friend of mine, well, a current friend but former teammate tore us up a couple of weeks ago. Probably one of the best games he’s ever had. That was tough to watch. I didn’t like to see that, from a competitive standpoint.
I’ve heard you called Angry Altman at times. Where did that come from?
My Angry Altman; I’ve been called Angry Altman since college. That was my nickname. [There] was a kid from Albuquerque who I helped bring to Trinity. He came in as a wide-eyed freshman, so I was really one of his only friends and someone that he knew, and the first day he was excited to see me and a little bit nervous about everything, and we got paired up against each other and the first thing he did is turn to attack and I went flying in and two-footed him. He was terrified, because he said his world got turned upside down because here I am, the only friend he has and the only comforting person there and the first thing I do is absolutely go and wreck him in training. And he was like, he carried on and keeps talking about how alone he was in the world, and the world was crumbling around him. So my competitive spirit led me to get the nickname Angry Altman.
How do you want to be remembered here?
I think every true competitor wants to be remembered as a winner. I think, ultimately, that’s what I’d like to be known as, as just a, a winner. After going through this last season [half season], it’s tough, but time will tell how I’ll be remembered.
I think the iconic photo of you kissing the Soccer Bowl will help.
Yeah, that’s a good one. [grins]
What are some of your favorite memories of the Dark Clouds?
I think I was talking to Wes and Bruce about this, on their du Nord podcast. One of my favorite memories is after we won the championship in Ft Lauderdale. At the bar afterwards, you kind of had the beginning time, where the players were off with their families and the cup, celebrating by themselves, and you had the fans off celebrating by themselves, and there was this unique moment when some of the players took the trophy to the fans, and it was just the merging of two parties, then it just became one big celebration.
It was just symbolic of everything that we accomplished that season. And the best thing about it is that it wasn’t forced. It was… it felt natural, the mingling, because that’s just how close we were with the fans. You know, from the videos that had been made and passed around, to the way that we interacted with so many fans on a personal level every day. It was an experience that we felt comfortable sharing with you guys. And you guys felt comfortable sharing with us. And it was just a great moment.
Seeing a few of the guys watching the replay on television was priceless.
Taka [Kentaro Takada] was my favorite, because after everything he’d say, “And we’re on GolTV!” and get really excited.
At one point, in this off-season, were there two definite paths for you: MLS or med school?
[Pauses before answering] Yes. I had the opportunities to train with DC [United] and Portland, and you know, I never really made up my mind what would happen if I got offered a contract there. It was always, you know, how I’ve been living my life for the last 5 years, which is just wait and see; we’ll make the decisions as they come up. We’re not going to plan anything out because the second you try to start planning something, everything changes. I was doing well in DC, and the moment you start planning for things, next thing you know, you go head to head with someone and you’re out for a month and they go out and sign some veteran players and there’s no space for you, so it’s hard to plan things in soccer.
As far as MLS and med school went, there was going to be a conversation. I would have played MLS; how long kind of would have depended on maybe a conversation with a coach. Try to figure out where he saw my goal. Contracts aren’t guaranteed in MLS; they can hire you one day and fire you the next. And that would be very disappointing as I would be giving up a lot. So I was hoping that if it came to that I could have an honest conversation with the coach about it and see where I stood.
My personal opinion is that this path is the better in the long term, although I think it was harder on you in the short term.
You’re probably right. Yeah. A little disappointing, but…
How could you, your first ever concussion in how many years of playing soccer? You can’t argue with the fates – that’s just the way it’s going to go, I guess.
Where are you going to med school?
UT Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Medicine. It’s a big health science center that supplies a lot of hospitals in south Texas, so they have a nursing school, a pharmacy school, a medical school that’s a VA Hospital, a regular hospital. They have a lot of amenities there, it’s a very well-funded institution. It’s pretty awesome. It’s enormous. Looking forward to it.