Most rookies wait until training camp to start making mistakes. New England Revolution forward Zack Schilawski blundered within seconds of hearing his name called as the ninth selection in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft.
Instead of thanking the Revolution for making him the latest member of the Wake Forest-New England pipeline, Schilawski offered his praise to Columbus, the club that selected Dilly Duka one pick earlier.
In his first professional chance with the goal at his mercy, the accomplished college striker shanked his effort toward the corner flag and trudged off the stage to face a rather bemused Revolution delegation.
"The funny thing was that I wasn't that embarrassed for myself," Schilawski said. "I didn't really care because I was so happy. Then I walked off the stage and all of the New England were people right there and they were like 'what was that about?' I was nervous that I embarrassed them, but as far as I'm concerned, I couldn't be happier. This is a great place to be. I'm excited to get drafted and get a contract."
The high-profile flub handed the Revolution players and technical staff members an easy point of attack in the annual rookie welcoming process, according to Schilawski.
"It was a little bit of an ice-breaker," Schilawski said. "The first thing coach (Steve) Nicol said to me was that he was happy I got on a flight to come here (for training camp) instead of getting one to Columbus. It's all in good fun."
Nicol -- a person known to make a joke or two to keep the atmosphere light -- said he hoped and expected Schilawski's teammates to join in the fun as preseason progressed. Schilawski said he started to hear little comments from the moment he stepped on the Dana-Farber Field House turf for the first time in early February with Nicol featuring among the protagonists.
"I guess if we're playing Columbus and he sets them up, then we'll know something is going on," Nicol offered.
Schilawski said the gaffe and the resulting banter actually helped him acclimate to his new surroundings. The 22-year-old Cary, N.C. native encountered a few familiar faces -- Pat Phelan is a former Wake teammate, while Darrius Barnes and Mike Videira were fellow members of a PDL team based out of Cary -- when he arrived, but he noted that he faced the typical rookie hurdle of settling in with a group of players he doesn't really know.
Schilawski said he's trying to learn as much as he can about his new career as he attempts to carve out a place withing the blossoming team structure.
"That's the major thing: trying to fit in," Schilawski said. "I'm trying to have as many conversations with the guys as I can. There's a lot of guys who have a lot of experience. I'm trying to learn as much as I can and listen more than I talk. I'm going to work as hard as I can in these drills and hopefully, slowly but surely, win their respect."
If Schilawski can transfer his goalscoring form at Wake Forest to the professional level, his teammates will certainly grant him the respect he craves. Even though he enjoyed just one season as a full-time starter for the Demon Deacons, Schilawski notched 40 goals in 99 career appearances. The prolific goal haul record includes double-digit tallies in his junior (11 goals) and senior (14) campaigns.
Nicol said Schilawski possesses the ability to make a similar impact with the Revolution as he adjusts to the higher standard and develops his game.
"He's done a bit of everything," Nicol said. "He's scored goals. He's made goals. He's a team guy. He's done all of the things that you want the players on your team to do. It seemed pretty straightforward (to pick him in the SuperDraft)."
Almost as straightforward as thanking the team that selected you in the SuperDraft. Schilawski might have missed a draft day sitter, but Nicol said all will be forgotten once the rookie earns his way onto the field.
"As long as he goes on the field and plays for us, I couldn't care what he says," Nicol said.