RSL star Sebastian Velasquez shares with students his struggles growing up

Jan 24 2014 - 7:12pm

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REAL Salt Lake player Sebastian Velasquez speaks to North Davis Junior High students about the importance of staying in school and getting a good education. In Clearfield. On January 22 2014. (Brian Wolfer Special to the Standard-Examiner)

North Davis Junior High students listen to REAL Salt Lake player Sebastian Velasquez speak about his struggles and how he has overcome not finishing school. On January 22 2014. (Brian Wolfer Special to the Standard-Examiner)

One student performs a dance in traditional native american attire at North Davis Junior High during the diversity assembly. In Clearfield. On January 22 2014. (Brian Wolfer Special to the Standard-Examiner)

North Davis Junior High students listen to REAL Salt Lake player Sebastian Velasquez speak about his struggles and how he has overcome not finishing school. On January 22 2014. (Brian Wolfer Special to the Standard-Examiner)

On Wednesday North Davis Junior High students do a international flag ceremony at the start diversity assembly. In Clearfield. On January 22 2014. (Brian Wolfer Special to the Standard-Examiner)

North Davis Junior High student proudly carries a filipino flag during the international flag ceremony at the start diversity assembly. In Clearfield. On January 22 2014. (Brian Wolfer Special to the Standard-Examiner)

REAL Salt Lake player Sebastian Velasquez speaks to North Davis Junior High students about the importance of staying in school and getting a good education. In Clearfield. On January 22 2014. (Brian Wolfer Special to the Standard-Examiner)

Students of North Davis Junior High do a Haka Dancer a diversity assembly where students perform and listen to Sebastian Velasquez’s story In Clearfield. On January 22 2014. (Brian Wolfer Special to the Standard-Examiner)

REAL Salt Lake player Sebastian Velasquez speaks to North Davis Junior High students about the importance of staying in school and getting a good education. In Clearfield. On January 22 2014. (Brian Wolfer Special to the Standard-Examiner)

North Davis Junior High students listen to REAL Salt Lake player Sebastian Velasquez speak about his struggles and how he has overcome not finishing school. On January 22 2014. (Brian Wolfer Special to the Standard-Examiner)

One student performs a dance in traditional native american attire at North Davis Junior High during the diversity assembly. In Clearfield. On January 22 2014. (Brian Wolfer Special to the Standard-Examiner)

North Davis Junior High students listen to REAL Salt Lake player Sebastian Velasquez speak about his struggles and how he has overcome not finishing school. On January 22 2014. (Brian Wolfer Special to the Standard-Examiner)

On Wednesday North Davis Junior High students do a international flag ceremony at the start diversity assembly. In Clearfield. On January 22 2014. (Brian Wolfer Special to the Standard-Examiner)

North Davis Junior High student proudly carries a filipino flag during the international flag ceremony at the start diversity assembly. In Clearfield. On January 22 2014. (Brian Wolfer Special to the Standard-Examiner)

REAL Salt Lake player Sebastian Velasquez speaks to North Davis Junior High students about the importance of staying in school and getting a good education. In Clearfield. On January 22 2014. (Brian Wolfer Special to the Standard-Examiner)

Students of North Davis Junior High do a Haka Dancer a diversity assembly where students perform and listen to Sebastian Velasquez’s story In Clearfield. On January 22 2014. (Brian Wolfer Special to the Standard-Examiner)


CLEARFIELD -- It may look like 22-year old Real Salt Lake's Colombian-American midfielder Sebastian Velasquez has it all as a professional soccer player.

But as he told North Davis Junior High students Tuesday, it was a big struggle getting to that point.

After moving from Columbia to the U.S. with his mom when he was 3 years old, Velasquez brought with him his love of soccer. It was the only thing he wanted to do, so after studying hard all through school, he decided to drop-out midway through high school to begin trying out for professional soccer teams.

"I didn't know dropping out of school would cause so many problems for me and my family though," said Velasquez.

After getting turned away numerous times because he didn't have a high school or college degree, Velasquez turned to drugs and alcohol to sooth the disappointment, but learned real quick that continuing down that path wasn't going to help him fulfill his life-long dream.

"Drugs and alcohol were leading me nowhere and I wasn't getting any closer to becoming a professional soccer player, something I had wanted my whole life," said Velasquez.

He checked out the junior college near his home in South Carolina, Spartanburg Methodist College, and asked to be on the soccer team. He learned he could only be on the team if he were in school, so Velasquez registered for school and spent two seasons with their team where he achieved 55 goals and 33 assists.

Just when Velasquez thought his world of opportunities were widening with numerous big-league universities looking into his skills, he got the crushing news that because he had tried out for a professional team in Barcelona, he was disqualified from playing in college.

Thinking his soccer career was over two years ago, at age 20, Velasquez bought an airplane ticket to fly home to Colombia. Right before he left, though, he was invited to try out for the Real Salt Lake team.

"It was literally my last chance, so I just went and did what I knew how to do best," said Velasquez.

Afterward, he flew back to Colombia on Jan. 16, 2012. While eating chicken and watching the MLS Super Draft, he got the news that would change his life. He was selected to be a part of the Real Salt Lake team. The selection shocked Velasquez because it was highly unusual to draft a player at a junior college level.

"I was this unknown kid. They didn't even have a picture of me or anything up on the screen," said Velasquez. "It was unbelievable, and literally changed my career."

He said he loves the team where he is entering his third year as a member. However, he had cautionary advice for the students.

"I want to let you guys know that even though I made it, I took the wrong way to get there," Velasquez said. "While you are here in school, realize as athletes, any injury you may have, your career is done. Education is going to be with you forever and no one can take what is in your brain away from you."

After the assembly, ninth-grader Alan Paz said he could relate to the soccer player.

"It was interesting listening to how he lived his life and struggled at points, but got back up," said Paz. "I was struggling too in school during seventh and eighth grade missing classes, getting bad grades, and coming late to school."

Paz decided to switch gears for ninth grade and says, "It feels pretty good to be taking the right way and not the wrong turn. It was nice to hear I'm not the only one who has gone through that."

 

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