By Kim DeRaedt
Whether it was kickball or freeze tag, basketball or baseball these multi-sport athletes were likely the stars of their grade school gym classes en route to becoming soccer hotshots. Athletic, accomplished, and adaptable, sporting glory runs through their veins.
On the podium
“The All-American Boss”, Bruce Arena: The former US National Team coach didn’t chase a soccer career; soccer sought him. Arena was a high school defender before the team’s goalkeeper was suspended, and he stepped in between the pipes. He was both an All-American lacrosse and soccer player at Nassau Community College but moved on to Cornell University with the intention of playing lacrosse, not soccer. A void in the goalkeeper position due to injuries once again thrust Arena into the role. Post-college, he played professional lacrosse for Montreal Quebecois for a season until the National Lacrosse League folded at the end of the year. Soccer lured Arena back into its grasp where he tried, albeit rather unsuccessfully, to establish himself as a professional. Flash forward and the 49-year-old can now look back at his athletic career having added several successful coaching stints to his resume including collegiate, professional, and an eight-year stint as the US MNT’s go-to leader and coach.
“The Royal Rev”, Taylor Twellman: It’s not uncommon for a skilled athlete to compete in football, basketball, baseball, and soccer in high school as Twellman did during his St. Louis University High School days. What’s not so normal, however, is for an athlete to be offered a contract with the Kansas City Royals right out of high school and turn it down to play soccer at Maryland. It took only two collegiate seasons for Twellman to realize that he had made the right decision as the prodigious forward jumped overseas to suit up for 1860 Munich II. Nevertheless, his short stint was unsuccessful, so Twellman returned to his native land where he transformed his career into a huge success scoring 101 goals for the New England Revolution and making 29 appearances for the US National Team.
“Mr. Football”, Aldo Donelli: Donelli hardly felt the pressure of the US National Team’s rivalry match against Mexico in the 1934 World Cup qualifying match. He became the first US player to net a hat trick in an international game by scoring all four goals in the 4-2 victory. “Football” ran in Donelli’s blood. He had a brief career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles and served as a coach for the Steelers and Cleveland Rams as well. Donelli passed away in 1994, but his legacy lives on as a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Curtis Pride: A 13-year MLB career was Pride’s claim to fame, but the outfielder didn’t always carry around a Louisville Slugger. Pride scored twice for the U-16 US National Team in its 1985 FIFA World Cup appearance in China. He was slated as one of the world’s top prospects before he heard baseball call his name, or did he? Pride racked up his athletic laurels despite being deaf from birth.
The Bahr Boys: Chris and Matt Bahr both got their kicks in the National American Soccer League and utilized their talents to serve as placekickers in the NFL for over a decade’s time.
Brian Kuritzky: An Ironman is supposed to be the ultimate athletic achievement, something even the fittest of fit athletes spend years training for. Kuritzky, a soccer player at Cornell, knocked off an Ironman competition without thought or training as if to say “what’s next?”. To support his point that soccer players were the fittest athletes, he signed up for an Ironman-length triathlon just three weeks in advance, made a faint attempt at relevant preparation, and crossed the finish line in a respectable 15:30:26 while raising money for charity and proving soccer’s predominance along the way.
A neat feat: http://www.usatodayeducate.com/staging/index.php/blog/which-college-athletes-are-the-fittest
One thing is for sure: These guys sure weren’t picked last in recess kickball!