FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The next crop of talented young prospects are currently showcasing their skills at the 2011 MLS Combine in the hopes they’ll hear their names called during Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft at the Baltimore Convention Center.
As we prepare for the draft later this week, I looked back at last year’s event with the Revolution’s first-round selection, Zack Schilawski, to chat about his memories of the life-changing day.
Here’s what he had to say …
Jeff Lemieux: Last year after you finished up at the MLS Combine you headed to the SuperDraft in Philadelphia. What kinds of emotions were you feeling the morning of the draft when you woke up and you were just waiting for it to start? When I talked to Darrius (Barnes) about his draft experience I remember him saying he was like a kid on Christmas. He just couldn’t wait for it to get started.
Zack Schilawski: Yeah, I think that’s definitely a good way to put it. For me, I couldn’t wait for it to get started just because I felt like it was going to be – whatever happened, whenever it happened, whatever stage in the draft and whatever team picked me up – it was going to be a big point in the rest of my life. That was kind of going to decide where things go from here; where I’m going to move to in a month and set up shop and what team I’m going to be playing for. There are tons of activities going on with the entire event and you just can’t wait to be sitting out there waiting for your name to be called. It was probably one of the more nerve-wracking days I’ve had. Not because I was too worried about not getting picked up, but rather, “Who’s going to get me and what kind of situation is it going to be?” For sure, that was stressful.
JL: You were in a little bit of a different situation than most of the players waiting to be drafted. You had already signed a contract before the draft, so you basically knew you were going to be taken at some point, you just didn’t know by whom.
ZS: I was confident that I was going to be taken and there’s always rumors circulating. People tell you different opinions or things they’ve heard about where you’re going to go. So I felt good, but at the same time, to whom, to where, what city am I going to go to? That was nerve-wracking for me.
JL: Eventually they got down to the Revs with that ninth overall pick and Commissioner Don Garber called your name. What were the feelings, the emotions when you heard your name called?
ZS: I was there with my dad and that was the first thing that hit my mind was I just wanted to give my dad a big hug. It was really great to be able to share that experience with him. He’s obviously had a huge part in my life and also a big part in my soccer career. He’s always been someone I could count on to give me good advice anywhere, but especially on the soccer field. I could always count on him to be honest with me and tell me what he thinks. So that was big for me to be able to turn and he was sitting right next to me, and gave him a big hug. I was also fortunate enough to be there with three of my other (Wake Forest) teammates who also went in the first round, and to be able to be there with them and their families and share that with them and my coach was a great feeling. We were all really happy for each other.
JL: So you went up to the podium and gave a little thank you speech, then as you came off the stage, you shook hands with the coaches. I think the coaches were all waiting there off the side of the stage for you. Did Steve Nicol and the coaching staff have much to say to you that day at the draft or did they kind of just tell you to enjoy it and they’d get to the business end a little later?
ZS: Yeah, you know how they are. It was pretty much, “Enjoy the day. We’re looking forward to having you.” I took down the numbers of some people who were going to be calling me. I think they told me to speak to [the Communications staff] and maybe (Vice President of Player Personnel) Mike Burns. They pretty much just handled it as business as usual for those guys. I could tell right away that they were good people and I was really excited to work with them and I was hopeful that they felt the same.
JL: The part I remember most – because I was there kind of helping run you through the media gauntlet – was all of a sudden you’re this college kid, you’ve just been drafted, and five minutes after hearing your name called you’re in front of cameras, there are bright lights, you’re on phone calls talking to the media. It was probably a new experience for someone just coming out of college who probably hadn’t done a whole lot of that before. So what was that experience like? When you’re standing in front of the camera with the lights shining, was it kind of like deer in the headlights a little bit?
ZS: Yeah, definitely overwhelming. You see kind of what the pro lifestyle’s like, then all of a sudden in a split second you’re thrown into that atmosphere. You’ve got people from your hometown calling you, friends calling you to congratulate you and also reporters calling you to do interviews and all kinds of things like that. So it’s a busy day, but it’s a happy day. You get to talk about something great that’s happened to you, and it was a lot of fun to kind of be in the spotlight as well. But (it was) definitely overwhelming.
JL: After all that I know you finally got to head backstage. When I brought you backstage I remember you asking where you could see your family. In terms of family members, was it just your father there?
ZS: It was just my dad, yeah. We had a big crew of Wake Forest people there and my coaches and everything.
JL: What did you do the night of the draft? Any celebrations?
ZS: Yeah, definitely a little celebration. The [NSCAA Convention] takes place at the same time, so if you’ve been playing competitive soccer your whole life, you walk a couple of feet and you see someone new who you know or who coached you or that you played with. So that was cool, to have tons of people that you maybe haven’t seen since high school, coaches and people like that who’ve had a little piece in your development to come over and congratulate you. It was a really cool night.
JL: To finish up, how about the next morning when you’ve had that whole whirlwind day, you wake up, the whirlwind is over and you come to the realization that you’ve got this whole journey ahead of you?
ZS: Yeah, you’re excited to get home and share that with people from back home, but at the same time it’s kind of set in stone. You have to make sure you’re fit, make sure you’re ready to go. Now that you know what’s ahead of you, you have to make sure you’re ready to take advantage of that opportunity. It’s a little humbling. You’ve been drafted, you got yourself in good position, but you have to make sure that you get the job done, come into preseason and earn your spot.
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