Aberdeen Football Club captain Joe Lewis is leading by example on and off the field as he combines playing commitments with studies at North East Scotland College.

The Dons star is working towards an HNC in Business having signed-up for the flexible option of distance learning at NESCol.

The 33-year-old goalkeeper is able to fit his studies around football and family commitments thanks to the online delivery.

He has returned to education for the first time since leaving school and signing as a professional with Norwich City in 2003 – but has words of encouragement for adults considering signing-up to retrain or upskill at College.

Joe said: “It was the first time I’d written more than a paragraph in 15 or 16 years, it was quite scary. Even when I was 14 or 15 I knew I was going into football and I signed my first professional contract at 17.

“I wish I’d kept my education going at that age but at the time you don’t think about it, you think you’re going to be a footballer forever. Then once you get into your 30s you realise that isn’t the case and you’ve got to have something after football.

“Distance learning can be a bit daunting at the start because you are second guessing yourself, but the tutor was really helpful and available all the time. It has been great - I’m just over half way through, so I’ve got a little way to go, but I’m enjoying it.”

Pittodrie has been home to a number of players who have pursued career ambitions outside of the game in recent years.

Joe’s former team-mate Shay Logan set up his own plumbing and heating company after embarking on his apprenticeship whilst still with the club and former Dons defender Mark Reynolds, now with Dundee United, completed a degree in mechanical engineering in 2019. Russell Anderson, another Aberdeen captain, gained a diploma in financial planning during his playing days which paved the way to a career in the financial services industry and Joe’s fellow goalkeeper Tomas Cerny retired due to injury last summer to focus on retraining as a PE teacher.

The current skipper said: “It was actually Mark Reynolds who inspired me to go to College. I’m fortunate I’ve had those experiences of seeing other people do it the right way and the wrong way and I’m using that to help myself.

“You have to plan for the future, I’ve witnessed people early my career who didn’t do that – you get an injury or your career fizzles out a bit quicker than you think it’s going to and then all of a sudden you’re in a sticky situation. If you’re not ready to go into another job or you’re not preparing for that next step it can be really difficult.

“I’d like to stay within football but on the business side. I’m not 100% certain on that, that’s where I think the HNC in Business is great foundation. When I complete this I will have to make my mind up a more about what direction I want to go in, there’s the potential to go on and do the HND or maybe using the HNC as a gateway to doing something more specific, football related or something else depending what I want to do. The HNC gives a great overview.”

The Pittodrie club actively encourages players at all stages in their career to pursue opportunities in education. Aberdeen FC’s education officer Allan McKimmie works closely with NESCol to ensure pathways are open to all.

NESCol principal Neil Cowie hopes Joe’s experience of distance learning will encourage others to consider a return to education.

He said: “Joe has shown great commitment to his college studies and is well on the road to completing his qualification. Taking that first step back into education can be daunting, regardless of which industry you are currently working in, but we have a team at NESCol who are well versed in providing tailored support to meet every individual’s circumstances.

“Joe’s situation is different in that he is planning for the longer term and has many years ahead of him in football, but we have seen at first hand the impact current economic circumstances have had in a variety of sectors and the way in which people have had to react quickly to plot a change of career. The college is here to help make that transition back into education as smooth as possible and I hope Joe’s experiences will inspire adult returners to embrace the opportunities available.”

Visit: https://www.nescol.ac.uk/ to view the full range of full-time, part-time and distance learning courses.