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There’s a lot of talk about the MLS SuperDraft these days. A lot of people wonder how important it still is, if you can still draft a star. I can only tell you that for the players who hear their names called, it means everything.

It’s a culmination of years of hard work, grinding every day to reach your goal of being a professional soccer player. I found out I was last year’s No. 1 pick the same way everyone else did – when Claudio Reyna said it on TV. I knew I was going to go early, but not THAT early. It was a really emotional moment for me and my family. The hugs, the tears, the happiness… that’s what draft day is all about.

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Looking back on the year since I became a pro, it’s crazy to see how much I’ve learned and grown. I have a lot of confidence in my game, but when I started playing collegiate soccer at Virginia Tech, I honestly didn’t expect to play that much, and the same was true of joining Austin FC. But the message from Josh and the coaching staff was clear from the start: we believe in you, but ultimately it’s up to you.

That faith from Josh and my teammates meant everything. I had a great preseason, and that gave me a bunch of confidence. That doesn’t mean my first year was without its challenges. On the field, I learned how different it is to play soccer as a job. If you don’t perform, you can put your own job and the job of others at risk. You have to come correct, every single day.

I also found out that being a professional doesn’t stop when you cross the white lines. It’s not something with an on-off switch. I saw the way the more experienced guys like Sebastián Driussi and Alex Ring take care of themselves, their bodies, their diets. That made things real and gave me a reference point. Something to aspire to.

I’ll close out by saying this: To the players who will hear their name called by Austin FC on Tuesday, you’re coming to a great organization with a bright future. The city is amazing. The fans are incredible. I went from Roanoke to Blacksburg – where maybe 1,000 people would watch my games – to playing in front of over 20,000 fans at Q2 Stadium. It’s still insane to me.

There’s nothing else like it.

Give your all, and you’ll earn Austin’s love and respect.

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First though, enjoy draft day. It’s your special moment, and a recognition of the many sacrifices you and those around you made to get you to this point.

All the late nights. The long drives. The tough training sessions. They all meant something.