Michigan Ross Graduating Senior Robbie Mertz Awarded Medal Of Honor
For the last four years, Robbie Mertz, BBA ‘19, and co-captain of the 2017 U-M NCAA Big Ten championship soccer team, challenged himself to pursue excellence on and off the field.
And in early April, the high standards Mertz set for himself were recognized in a big way. The Big Ten Conference awarded Mertz the 2019 Big Ten Medal of Honor, a fabled award described as the highest honor that a student competing in conference athletics can achieve in the Big Ten.
Mertz still doesn’t know who nominated him for the Big Ten medal, but when the committee asked him to write an essay one of the things he stressed was the importance of leadership.
“My senior year, I realized that another part of my purpose at Michigan was that people looked to me to lead. Tom Brady said that being named team captain at Michigan was the greatest honor he ever received. I understand that feeling now,” Mertz wrote.
As a Big Ten Medal winner, Mertz joins a group of storied honorees, some who went on to become legendary sports figures, and others who found great success in medicine, science and business.
“It’s still amazing to me that I am in the company of those people who won in the past,” Mertz said. “If you’d told me four years ago, when I committed to go to Michigan, that I would be winning this award, I would have told you, ‘You’re dreaming.’”
Not only did the Big Ten medal become a reality, but after Mertz’s final college soccer season ended, he celebrated another milestone when he was drafted by Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids before eventually signing on with the USL’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
“After the Rapids released me, I had an opportunity to work out with the Riverhounds and, thankfully, I did well enough to earn a contract. I’m really happy to be here,” Mertz said, adding, “It was pure elation when I was signed. It was something I’d always wanted to come true.”
Another impactful part of Mertz’s life at U-M was the chance to bond with Aiden, a ten-year-old boy with autism, and important member of the U-M soccer team.
“Our entire soccer team worked with Team Impact, a non-profit organization that pairs special needs children with college teams throughout the country. Aiden was our Team Impact player,” Mertz said. “He was with us for two years and we got to know him and his family off the field too.”
To Mertz and his teammates, Aiden was an inspiration.
“When you’re on the field things can go up and down, but when you look over and see Aiden on the sidelines and how happy he was to to be there supporting us, you realize what a blessing it is just to be representing Michigan. That was a special thing for all of us,” Mertz said.
Right now, Mertz is happy with being an active player on the Riverhounds’ roster, but whatever the future holds he is confident that his experiences at Ross will stay with him long after he walks across the stage to receive his degree.
“The Ross community is a place where everyone wants to be super successful. To be part of that culture was so helpful to me to develop, not just as a business student, but as a person. I think that’s what sets Ross apart,” Mertz said.