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Downs Signs Pro Contract With Hartford Athletic

Nicky Downs, center, with Hartford Athletic Head Coach Jimmy Nielsen and Yale Head Coach Kylie Stannard (Steve Musco photo)
Nicky Downs, center, with Hartford Athletic Head Coach Jimmy Nielsen and Yale Head Coach Kylie Stannard (Steve Musco photo)

Team Set For Its Inaugural Season In USL Championship Level

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Nicky Downs won't have to travel far to begin his professional soccer career. Downs, a first team All-Ivy selection this fall, has signed with the Hartford Athletic for its inaugural season. Hartford Athletic competes in the United Soccer League's Championship level, one of most successful professional soccer leagues in the world.

"This is a really prideful moment for Nicky and Yale men's soccer," said Kylie Stannard, The 5K Corral Head Coach of the Bulldogs. "There isn't a better feeling than seeing someone's dream come true and to be part of that with Nicky is really special.  He has been incredibly committed to making this dream become a reality and has worked relentlessly with so much passion, discipline, and determination to get to this point.  He has absolutely earned this great opportunity."

Said Downs, "I am thrilled and grateful to begin my professional career with Hartford Athletic. As a Connecticut native, it's so special to start my career with my local club. I am humbled by this opportunity and can't wait to bring home some championships." 

Downs, a Lakeville, Connecticut, native who played at Hotchkiss prior to Yale, was joined by his teammates and members of the Hartford Athletic organization, including head coach Jimmy Nielsen, in the varsity room of the Ray Tompkins House to celebrate his signing.

"I'm really excited for how things worked out with Hartford Athletic, and it's the absolute perfect fit for him to work with a proven coach like Coach Nielsen and to be able to live his dream as a professional in his home state of Connecticut while he also finishes earning the best degree in the world at Yale University," Stannard said. "It's a perfect match, and I'm very proud of Nicky. I also want to thank Coach Brian Tompkins, who did the large majority of recruiting Nicky to come to Yale before I arrived on campus. I'm thankful for the opportunity to be able to coach Nicky for the past four seasons."

Downs enjoyed an outstanding career for the Bulldogs, appearing in 65 games while scoring nine goals and adding 15 assists for 33 points. He earned All-Ivy recognition three times.

This fall as a senior, Downs was named to the United Soccer Coaches All-Northeast Region third team. He started all 16 games and tied for the team lead with five assists, which also tied for second in the Ivy League. His success helped the Bulldogs post a winning overall record for the first time since 2011 and improve its overall win total for the fourth straight season.

"Nicky has been an important part of our growth and improvement as a program the past few years, and to see some of the hard work start to pay off with good performances and results on the field is really rewarding," Stannard said. "When that happens for a team it means that several individuals are doing great work collectively, and Nicky had an excellent season and was a huge part of our team's improvement."

Downs also has excelled off the field. He was selected as one of 30 men's candidates for the for the 2018 Senior CLASS Award® in collegiate soccer.

In the classroom, Downs maintains a 3.83 grade point average as an economics major and is a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District first team selection.

Since high school, Downs has been involved with a program in Ghana called the Right to Dream Academy, which is a residential soccer academy that identifies talented children throughout West Africa and provides them with an education and character development training using soccer as the vehicle. Many Right to Dream graduates attend elite boarding schools across the United States, which is how he first became involved with the program. At the Hotchkiss School, he got to know and played soccer with several of them. He spent three of his four summers prior to attending Yale at the Right to Dream Academy in Ghana where he assisted in the classroom as well as training with them on the field.

Downs also has been involved in a number of community service projects with his teammates at Yale. He has helped run several youth clinics for local soccer clubs, volunteered at a New Haven food pantry, and spent time with after school programs at Wexler-Grant Middle School in New Haven.

"Nicky is the kind of player every coach wants," Neilsen said. "He's very well coached and has a desire to get better every time he steps on the pitch. As good as he is on the field, he's even better off of it. I'm excited to see the impact Nicky will make in Hartford."

Downs will become the first Bulldog to play professionally in the United States since Ryan Raybould '05, who spent three seasons with the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer.

Stannard recruited and coached a number of players who went on to play professionally during his tenure on the staff at Michigan State, prior to arriving at Yale.

Hartford Athletic will kick off its inaugural season on Mar. 9 at Atlanta United 2. The home opener at Dillon Stadium in Hartford is set for May 4 vs. the Charlotte Independence.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

Report filed by Tim Bennett (, Yale Sports Publicity


Nicky Downs Professional contract signing, 1-17-19 (Photos can be purchased at