Soccer star, Heath Pearce, has demonstrated his skills on teams from the U.S. to Europe. And now, the KickTV host will give you some first-hand, player insight into the beautiful game in this six-part series.
If you were never drafted in the MLS, than you are just like me. I never had a “draft day” opportunity in my career. Yes, I played professionally but I signed my first professional contract in Europe where you simply had an agent negotiate your contract with a team that specifically wanted to have you on the team. Because I never had this opportunity, I decided to go to a draft and see what the experience was like.
I arrived on the day of the draft with a sense of nervous excitement. I knew I wouldn’t be drafted but I still felt excited to take part in a life changing moment for our nation’s future stars. From the outside looking in, it felt like an overwhelmingly large production. The main ballroom where the draft would take place had a big stage with bright lights and large production camera’s pointed in every direction. This stage would be the stage where players’ dreams come true, where a lifetime of hard work and dedication finally came to fruition.
As the building started to fill up with fans, families and agents alike, the atmosphere began to grow nervy. Fans started chanting their clubs favorite songs while potential draftees slowly filled in to the front room of the family’s selection, away from the noise and distractions. I could only imagine what these kids were feeling at this point. What number will I be drafted, what city will I play in, and what will my signing bonus be. Granted, these kids aren’t making millions out of college, yet, but they are entering in to a world of unknown, and a far cry from a dorm room and cafeteria meal plan. Just before the draft began, the room was full. Tables on the main floor were full of coaches, sports directors, technical directors and owners all of whom’ are looking for their next diamond in the rough that could potentially lead their club to a championship.
And suddenly as the room got quiet, MLS commissioner, Don Garber, approached the podium and leaned over the microphone saying, “With the first pick, of the first round, of the 2016 Super Draft, the Chicago Fire select, from Wake Forest University and a member of Generation Adidas, midfielder, Jack Harrison.” And in that instant, I witnessed a person’s life changed. The countless hour’s spent training, the sacrifices made by both player and parent’s and friends. The relentless self-belief had finally come to fruition. At this point, I just sat back and enjoyed the journey of draft day. Player after player were drafted, brought up to the podium and given a chance to share their gratitude and thanks to all who contributed along the way. They were just kids, and in an instant they became men, who would have to fend for themselves, no longer being protected by coaches, friends and families. A terrifying feeling I am sure but one that all athletes must embrace if they are to succeed at the highest levels.
As I watched the draft from the back of the room, I couldn’t help but be amazed at the spectacle that it was. Forty One players achieved their dreams of becoming professionals that day but in theory it was only the beginning. They had agent’s and families to thank, interviews to conduct, and quickly and within a few days, be in pre-season in a brand new city full of brand new teammates. This is only the beginning for the young pro’s. They would still need to make their team’s roster’s, fight for a starting spot, and make a career of it, but for that draft moment, it was their’s to own, theirs to keep, and theirs to cherish. I saw laughs, I saw tears but most of all, I saw potential. I knew this was the closest I’d ever get to being drafted, but for me, it was good enough.