Some of my earliest memories of playing soccer were at my grandmother’s house, kicking the ball around the yard with my father and brother. And we had to take the sticks out before we played so that if we fell or anything, we didn’t land on a log or a branch and hurt ourselves. I’m not sure how old I was, but I remember kicking the ball around with them being one of my earliest and fondest memories when I was younger.
My father is a Caribbean islander who played collegiately. He had professional aspirations, but he got injured. And my brother played; he was very good, but he preferred the physical aspect of the game. So he switched to (American) football. He used to be a defender, so he liked hitting people and making contact with us.
Being the younger brother, You always want to rough house with your older sibling. So, looking up to those two and playing sports together was a vehicle through which we connected. We bonded over it. Those memories of playing in the yard at my grandmother’s house or before a holiday were special to me and something I cherish.
The inspiration from them, people I still look up to today, is the main reason I play soccer. My father and brother were the people who inspired me to play the game, and I believe that having those positive role models in my life had a significant impact on the trajectory of my career, allowing me to persevere and continue because, as everyone knows, soccer isn’t easy.
It’s not always easy to stay focused on your “why,” and I don’t play now thinking about it every second of every day. But that’s why I started playing this game in the first place: to emulate the people I admire. At the end of the day, that’s what humans do: we try to recreate special moments and special bonds. As a result, much of what I do is an homage to them.
Growing up, I had no thoughts of playing professionally. I knew I wanted to play soccer, but I wasn’t sure if it was what I wanted to do professionally. I didn’t consider the benefits of being a professional athlete or how people would perceive me differently until high school.
As I grew and made the transition from rec soccer to serious travel soccer, serious travel soccer to high school, high school to collegiate level, and then looking ahead. It wasn’t something I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a professional soccer player, whereas many kids today may feel like they know they want to go pro.
They are able to see the stars. They go on Instagram and see players all over the place. But before Instagram, I used to watch Thierry Henry play for Arsenal on Sundays and think to myself, oh man, that’s crazy. However, you didn’t get a look into their personal lives to see the Lamborghinis, Ferraris, or whatever else these other professionals are doing with their lifestyles.
And, by no means, is this the life I’m living right now. I wish! But I believe the main reason I play professionally is to pay tribute to the role models in my life who influenced what I do. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have great mentors and friends in the game. Like my youth team when I was younger, I had a lot of great guys on whom I can still rely today. I still have a lot of college guys I can lean on and call friends at this point.
You look up to your coach or someone you spend a lot of time with other than your family, such as your teachers. And I’ve been fortunate in that people have encouraged me to keep going when things get tough. because many people have the ability, the desire, and the determination to be a professional athlete. However, when times are tough, you must be able to rely on someone other than yourself.
And so, to be honest, that’s why I’m playing professionally today. It’s because other people have encouraged me to continue on this path. Life can be difficult at times, and I’ve wanted to give up. I’m extremely grateful and thankful to have had those people in my life who supported and encouraged me.
Using The Game To Give Back…
I want to have a positive impact on someone’s life like people have been for me. And that’s one of the reasons I’m excited about the things i’m doing off the field, being able to contribute in the community. I try to be as involved in the community as possible, especially with younger players, even if soccer isn’t their vehicle. It all comes down to helping them be the best version of themselves.
I’m grateful to United Black Players for providing me with this platform to give back and inspire people at all levels of the game, not just the grassroots or youth levels. Whether through free clinics, school visits, or the distribution of equipment and gear. Even at the professional level, whether through coaching subsidies or the ability to assist peers, teammates, and other professional athletes in continuing their coaching careers and life journeys.
It’s really cool to find people who want to help, and this is kind of what I’m talking about, having a community or support of people who want to help others. I hope to be that person for just one person. Even if it’s just one person who says, “Hey, that moment changed my life,” it’s a start. That would be truly special.
Looking back to my first year professionally, when I was fresh out of college, I talked to this kid in Indiana. He was a racer. He wasn’t even particularly interested in soccer. He went to a soccer game with his family because his older brother played. I signed his jersey, and his family later contacted me while we were playing a match in San Diego recently, as they were on vacation in the area.
We had a conversation and connected, and they said, “Hey, we remember you from Indy”. That was inspiring, you know, the kids are much older now, but they remember me and those moments we shared, like interacting with the fans, literally just saying hello after a match.
I thought to myself, “Holy cow!” This is significant, and it has an impact. A little bit of positivity goes a long way, and they remember those interactions even years later. Those are the moments we do this for. If you can sustain that over time, you will see a lot of positive results.
So, I’m looking forward to that.
This story is a part of the “My Reason Why” series in partnership with United Black Players. You can view other entries in the series HERE
Professional Athlete • University of Pennsylvania Alum • United Black Players Exec. Board member