GROWING UP IN TEXAS
I grew up in Texas. I was born in Lubbock, lived a little in San Angelo. In the seventh grade, I moved to Grapevine. That’s where I spent most of my childhood that I can remember. It was a suburb of Dallas. I have a younger brother and we were always extremely active. We were always outside, always playing. I started playing competitive soccer when I was 11 for a club team in Dallas. It’s a crazy story of how we ended up in Dallas, actually. When I was living in San Angelo, I was at an overnight soccer camp in Fort Worth. I was there for a few days and at the end, a coach came up to my mom and said, ‘Your son is really talented. I think he has a future in soccer. If you want him to be successful, you need to move to Dallas because that’s where the best coaches are.’ It was crazy. I was 10 years old and my dad got a new job in Dallas and my mom had to quit her job. We found a new house and moved to the Dallas area for me to continue playing soccer. At the time I didn’t realize all of this was done for me, but my parents sacrificed so much so I could get better coaching. Both of my parents were good athletes and I really looked up to them. My dad had always been my coach to that point. We didn’t have a lot of money, but never really felt it because they worked hard to support us.
OFF TO COLLEGE
I was never the best player on any of my club teams. I never thought soccer was going to be a big thing for me even though I was on the best teams. At the Disney tournament one year, I guest played for this team. I played really well, and I started to get calls from colleges that were interested in me, which was a total surprise. I never thought that was a possibility. I went on an official visit to Furman University, a great academic school with an awesome soccer program. Clint Dempsey was going there when I took my visit, so I got a chance to hang out with him which was pretty cool. I loved it immediately. The school is amazing, and the soccer team was really good. I got back from my visit and literally committed the next day. I didn’t even visit another school and I’m glad I didn’t. I achieved my dream of becoming a professional soccer player, met my future wife, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology, so it was a great experience for me overall. My Plan A was to become a physical therapist and go to physical therapy school and get my doctorate. Professional soccer was so far down my list because it’s so difficult to do.
I never realized I was good enough to go pro until the day I got drafted. I didn’t even know what the MLS combine was, but my coach, Doug Allison, applied for me to be invited, which I thought was an amazing opportunity. I read a whole bunch of mock drafts before the combine and my name wasn’t on any of them. I was basically a no-name player. A week before the combine, I was playing flag football with some guys from the baseball team. I ran a crossing route and collided with someone, shattering my orbital socket and three bones in my face. The doctor instructed me not to play soccer for six weeks. My family told me not to play, my girlfriend told me not to play, but there was no way I was going to watch other people play for my dream job. I decided to play anyway even though my face was swollen and I had a black eye. I thought I played pretty well, but nothing spectacular. After the combine, I checked the mock drafts again and my name was nowhere to be found. I wasn’t talked about at all. I had no regrets, though, because I gave it my best try and there was nothing else I could’ve done.
I watched the draft with my girlfriend, Julie, who is now my wife. The first round was on ESPN and after the last pick of the first round, they said tune in to ESPN.com for the second round. Well I slowly took out my laptop and went over to ESPN.com and my name was shown as the 15th overall pick by San Jose. I couldn’t believe it. I had to refresh the page. I didn’t even know where San Jose was at the time, so I had to Google it. I was excited when I saw it was in California, but my girlfriend had mixed feelings because we were currently really far away in South Carolina.
I got a call from general manager John Doyle and head coach Frank Yallop and I thought at the time that meant I was a professional soccer player, but I didn’t realize that I still had to try out and make the team. I went to preseason with the team down in Los Angeles and there was about 40 guys there because it was the expansion year.
MAKING MY DEBUT
I went on to make the 18-man roster. I was the first man off the bench in all the preseason games, so I was feeling pretty confident. The week of our first game, Gavin Glinton, our starting forward, showed up late to training and was told he wouldn’t be starting as punishment. I was told the day before our first game that I would be starting. This game was against the LA Galaxy on ESPN. David Beckham‘s first season was the prior season but he was injured so this was really like his first full year. Obviously, Landon Donovan was also on the team. These are two of my biggest idols; two players that I really looked up to. I remember standing in the tunnel pregame so vividly. Landon was right next to me and Beckham was like two or three feet away from me. Fireworks were going off on the field. I was so nervous, about to throw up. I was in complete awe and all of a sudden Jason Hernandez smacks me in the back of the head really hard and yells, ‘Focus kid!’ It was pretty obvious I was star struck.
I took the field and played horribly. All I could think about during the game was being in the same picture frame as David Beckham. Every time I was next to him, I was just thinking about being on ESPN. I got subbed in like the 60th minute because I didn’t play very well, and thankfully I got to play them a few more times to redeem myself.
When I got taken in the expansion draft by Philadelphia in 2009, it was a shock to me. I had played basically every game for San Jose, was the first man off the bench. I was getting better. The fans loved me, the marketing team loved me, I was on billboards and all that. Being young and naïve, I thought my entire career would be in San Jose. When I was left unprotected and Philadelphia took me, I was completely surprised.
I loved Philadelphia and then was taken in the expansion draft the next year again by Vancouver. I loved Vancouver as well. At the end of that season, Vancouver decided they did not want to renew my contract, so I had to look for a new team. San Jose wanted me back and it was an honor for them to want me back. I thought I grew a lot as a player in the two years I was gone.
RETURN TO SAN JOSE
My first year back with the Quakes was in 2012 when we won the Supporters’ Shield. That was a really special year. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced as a player or as a fan. It was crazy. When we took the field, we had no doubt that we were going to win the game. Even when we were down by two goals, everyone including the other team knew we were going to find a way to come back. It was crazy to see how many teams folded in the last 10 minutes because they knew we were going to come at them. We must have had 10 or 12 wins by scoring in the last 10 minutes of the game. It was awesome to be a part of that.
This is my 13th season in MLS and 11th with the Earthquakes. It doesn’t really feel like that long when I’m in the moment, but it does when I sit back and really reflect on it. San Jose has definitely become home. I’ve raised three kids and help coached tons of others in the area. I have built relationships with fans and staff. San Jose is definitely home.
OFF THE FIELD
Soccer’s not the number one thing in my life which is probably why I’ve been able to play for so long. My number one priority is my faith and my relationship to God. Going to church, reading my Bible, worshiping and living a life of gratitude for what I’ve been given. The second thing in my life is my family and I think if I do the first thing really well that it will help me with the second. I strive to be a really good husband and a really good father. My home life is a lot of wrestling with my two boys, and I have a little girl as well. I have a lot of house projects. I like to instill a good work ethic in my children so we do things together like my parents did with me. I also try and take my wife out on dates and spend time with her and support her and be there for her. My faith and family are my top priorities and soccer’s third. Obviously, soccer is what pays the bills and I get a lot of joy out of it and I’ve been able to make a lot of great relationships through it. It’s also a great platform to positively influence others.
I’ve been trying to answer the question of what I want to do when I’m done playing soccer for like three years now, but you never know when it’s going to end due to injury, coach not liking you or whatever it may be. I’m ready mentally but as far as what I’m going to do, I don’t know exactly. I have a passion for young professionals; the young Homegrown kids or recent SuperDraft picks. I have a passion for their success on and off the field. So, I’d love to do something as far as mentorship or training with young guys on and off the field. There’s a lot to adapt to when you first come into the league, so I’d love to help them adapt and be supportive. Hopefully the Quakes invent a position for me because that would be awesome.