Erumuse Momoh (C’19) started playing soccer at four years old. He’d been inside his family’s house in Silver Springs, Md., kicking around a ball—maybe a soccer ball, maybe a basketball, maybe one of those toy balls for kids to play with. Somehow, the ball got away from him and he shattered four of his father’s prize vases, leaving only the tallest one—as tall as he is now—intact. His dad walked in, saw the carnage, and carted him off to Little League soccer sign ups around the corner. And, as Erumuse says, “the rest was history.”
Muse, as he’s known to his friends, particularly on Penn’s soccer team, stands around 5’9 and smiles infectiously. He insists he’s shy, but as we talk, his more bubbly side comes out, chatting about memes, his parents, his older sister, and Black Swan. He’s spent much of his time at Penn playing defense the varsity soccer team, bearing #4 on his jersey.
When Muse was in high school at the McDonough School in Baltimore, he drove 45 minutes to an hour every day to get there. He lived at home in Silver Springs with his parents, his sister, who is seven years older, and for a time, his uncle. He learned humility from his family: “staying humble is one of the main things my family has prided itself on.”
His sister, now in medical school, is his only sibling. “We’re pretty close as you can get for being seven years apart.”
"I feel, honestly, I feel like my sister has made me a better person.” He doesn’t want to compete with her—he says they took different paths to the Ivy League, her getting to Dartmouth through top–of–class academics and club involvements, him focusing on soccer and trusting that the details would fall into place. When he talks about just chilling and watching Netflix with her, he beams.
Muse is easygoing enough that the college process wasn’t too stressful. He realized he was getting good at soccer around 15. “I started off on B teams and I got promoted to A teams and I never really equated that to me being good, I just thought ‘oh, they need players’ … And I think when it really clicked is when I started getting D1 offers and I was like, alright, I might be good.”
So he decided to come play for Penn. His freshman year was marked by a huge adjustment—not in terms of soccer, but classes. "I think it was just like thinking about the form of how to pass classes and like be a better student. Like how to properly study for exams. Like, it's not the same as high school. So definitely adjusting. It was hard, but I feel like I've gotten there now.”
Having the routine of soccer, up until last semester, was helpful. He’d schedule morning classes and get to the gym around 1 or 2 p.m. to shower, before practice from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., then study in Fagin Hall after picking up a Sweetgreen salad, typically a Kale Caesar, or some other quick dinner.
His relationship with the guys on the team has also been a constant for him. Traveling, a lot of it concentrated during freshman and junior year for him, along with daily workouts and seeing each other every day, kept them close. He currently lives with two of his teammates in a Harrison apartment.
And his relationship with his current coach, Brian Gill, has also been an anchor. Muse says that Gill’s approach, where he “sits down with each individual player gets to know them, gets to know their personal life,” has been helpful. “There is no B.S. passing by him.”
When Muse and his father weren’t getting along after the end of high school and through his sophomore year, spending time with Gill, as he calls his coach, helped Muse get through it. "I think it just made me a better person.”
At Penn, where Muse majors in Psychology, a few classes that have stuck with him include Cultural Psych, Social Psych, and one film history class with Timothy Corrigan. In the film history class, which his team's goalie recommended to him, Muse got an overview of film history from 1950 to present and he also got to solve one of the enduring mysteries of his life.
You see, when Muse was younger, his sister took him to see Black Swan in theaters. He remembers sitting next to her when the movie ended, dumfounded. “And I asked, like, ‘what just happened in front of me,' and she just refused to explain it to me. She’s like ‘Oh, if you don’t know, you don’t know.’” So, in an effort to find out, he did his final project on Black Swan. “This class actually gave me the opportunity to research the film and really dissect what happened.”
He laughs. “A lot of the answers in my life were finally fulfilled. That’s all I can say.”
Now that soccer is over, Muse has his eye trained on a fun semester and his future plans. His dad suggested that he drive Uber in the meantime, which he’s fine with. The deer–filled suburbs where he grew up prepared him to drive well. Right now, he’s weighing two options.
He wants to keep playing soccer, and he’s attending open trials for the United Soccer League with a friend who just came out of the soccer program at Saint Joseph's University. Muse says, “we're really just gonna be playing it day to day. So that works out. Then hopefully we'll be doing that for a couple of years and then eventually find a long–term career.”
But he’s also looking at pharmacy school, either down the line or right out of college. His mom attended pharmacy school at 38, and he admires how “she just persevered through that.” She’s now a pharmacist, and she really encourages him “to just do what you want to do while you’re young, as long as you do it to the best of your ability.” His dad suggested he start driving Uber to make some money while things shake out.
He’s visibly grateful for the support of his family, smiling every time he talks about how supportive they’ve been. He says that many of his Nigerian friends at home face pressure from their families. “If you ask any Nigerian, it’s really hard telling your parents like you don't want to be something that's not a doctor or a lawyer or a surgeon.” But his family has continued to support him through soccer, school, and now the uncertainty of graduation.
But for now, he’s focused on enjoying the rest of his senior year. He’s changed a lot since high school. Back then, he thought the world was perfect. His soccer seasons played out “like a movie.” And, he says, “that mentality almost carried through into college. I wasn’t really concerned about where I was going…wherever I go, I’m just going to make sure I work hard.” But now, his friends, his coaches, and his Penn experiences have taught him something valuable. “You can work hard and things still might not go your way, but you still have to keep that same mentality.” So Muse will just keep on working hard, come what may.