Tom Glavine was my guy.
If you’re too young to remember him… man, you missed out. Tom was a left-handed pitcher for the Atlanta Braves. An absolute legend. He threw darts. And as a fellow southpaw growing up in Birmingham, Alabama -- where every Braves home game was broadcast live on television -- I wanted to be just like him.
But God can alter your plans in an instant.
Playing in a soccer game at age 13, I landed on my left wrist, dislocating it. I fractured my scaphoid bone and it required surgery. I was a good baseball player to that point. Maybe had a future in the sport. But that was it. I was done. No more baseball. I was never going to be Tom Glavine.
Maybe for some people that’s where the story ends... a chapter about what could have been.
But that’s the funny thing about life; You can never truly plan for it. You see, breaking my wrist was just the beginning. Maybe the best thing that ever happened to me.
Ambition is a powerful thing.
Before the injury I was completely preoccupied with two sports: baseball and soccer. I was equally passionate about them, but baseball was off the table, and I remember focusing all my time and energy on my other great love: the beautiful game.
I became obsessed. Seriously. It grew to the point where I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life. It consumed me.
But listen, before I go on, there’s something you have to understand.
You see a lot of kids in Alabama grow up wanting to be professional athletes. But remember, this was 1998. And while most were dreaming of being the next great quarterback, or shooting guard, I was dreaming of being a professional soccer player.
You have to understand how crazy that seemed to people back then.
Wanting to be a professional soccer player in Birmingham, Alabama in 1998 was like growing up here and wanting to be a pro snowboarder -- you just didn’t do it. But that’s the beautiful thing about dreams: They’re yours. They’re fueled entirely by your own ambition, and they’ll take you wherever you want to go.
And looking back, mine took me to some pretty cool places. They took me west to UCLA, where people told me the squad would be too tough to break in to, that I would have to wait years to contribute. I mean, I wasn’t even a youth national team player. Who was I to think I’d break the mold?
Well, I was a kid from Birmingham. I was the kid who was crazy enough to make it happen.
I scored a brace in my third game and went on to start every match of the season from there on out.
It was my ambition that led me to be a M.A.C. Hermann Trophy semi-finalist, a first-team All-American, two conference championships, and ultimately break the all-time single-season record for points and goals in the PAC-12.
It was that same ambition that landed me a Generation Adidas contract and helped me become the first ever player from Alabama selected in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft.
It was that same ambition that took me to Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Louisville, every stop of the way becoming a better player and a better person.
And it was that same ambition that brought me here.
To somewhere truly special.
The somewhere equally as ambitious.
To Legion FC.
When Birmingham was awarded a USL expansion franchise in 2017, I got chills.
I was in the middle of a personal best year and in the prime of my career, but I knew in that moment there was no other club in the world I would rather play for.
And while Birmingham has changed a lot since 1998, it’s changed for the better. I love this city. It’s grown. And like so many other places around the country, it has turned into a proper soccer community. The game is everywhere. You see kids all over the place wearing jerseys, kicking balls, dreaming of being professional soccer players. They’re not pretending to be Tom Glavine anymore, they’re pretending to be Messi, or Ronaldo.
That’s why for me to have the opportunity to be the first signing in club history and to pen a long-term deal here in my hometown is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Because we have an opportunity to inspire the next generation of soccer players in Alabama. To do something great for our city and our state. To create something truly special.
So this one’s for you Birmingham. Whether you’re a die-hard soccer fan, someone who has never been to a game in their life, or maybe even a 13-year-old baseball fan with a cast on your wrist... this is your club.
We’re here to make you proud.
See you soon.
Birmingham Legion FC kicks off their inaugural season in the USL Championship at home on March 9 versus Bethlehem Steel FC.