PLAIN CITY — Kofi Herrick’s skill level on the pitch has never been a question mark for Fremont High boys soccer coach Fred Smith. Smith was enamored with Herrick’s talent the first time he watched him play.

Success, however, has not come easily for Herrick. According to Smith, it’s been all about trust. Herrick has struggled to trust his teammates, which has meant he holds the ball at his feet for too long.

This year, Herrick has been a different player. The junior forward is passing the ball to teammates and finding himself in positions to score. The result for Herrick is a team-high eight goals through nine games. Fremont is 7-2 overall and 3-1 in Region 1 play.

“All these teams are targeting other players and there’s Kofi, and now they’re going to have to target him,” Smith said. “It makes it difficult for the opposing team.”

The more Herrick trusts his teammates, the more that trust is reciprocated.

“There’s a lot of trust that we’re able to have in him,” Smith said. “He’s just a hard worker. He loves the game and he brings a good attitude to the game.”

Parker Huff, a senior midfielder, called Kofi “goal-hungry.” Like his coach, Huff was impressed with Kofi’s skills from the start.

“He said he got it from Africa,” Huff said.

Kofi was born in Kumasi, the capital city of the Ashanti region in Ghana. When he was about 3 or 4 years old, he was moved to an orphanage about 40 miles south in a city named Obuasi. His mother had just had a second child and could not provide for both children.

His father was out of the picture completely. Kofi never met him.

Kofi’s mother would visit him about once a year and he would talk to her every couple months, but at first, the transition was rough.

“I would always cry when she was going,” he said. “She always told me that she couldn’t take care of both me and my little brother and that I should stay there so that I can get better care.”

Life in an orphanage wasn’t great. Kids slept on triple-level bunk beds as 20-25 of them packed into each room, the orphanage as a whole housing 200-300.

Still, it was better than living in a village. According to Kofi, kids in orphanage could at least count on getting an education. Kids in villages often had to forego school so they could help their families earn money.

Kofi found comfort through soccer, a sport he said brings him happiness. It consumed his life away from school.

“If we are not playing soccer, we have nothing to do,” he said. “Because there’s not much electronics and all that stuff to do.”

Kofi and the other children would play soccer until they got tired. Then, after a shower and a bit of rest, they’d be back out playing again. Kofi said he would play three or four times a day.

“That’s the only thing we do, so we take it really serious,” he said.

Kofi eventually started taking something else very seriously — childcare.

A baby girl, Ama, moved into the orphanage and Kofi remembers her always crying — but when he picked her up, she’d stop. Kofi, about six years older than Ama, became so reliable that orphanage workers turned to him when she needed help. He said he would feed her and give her a bath.

Kofi didn’t have any siblings in the orphanage, so he started treating the girl — who has the same name as his mother — as his little sister

Ama would soon capture the hearts of a Utah couple.

Amy and Chad Herrick had three children but were interested in adopting. They became aware of Ama through the parents of friends who had been in Ghana for work.

After an adoption process that took about a year and a half, Amy and Chad brought Ama home in September 2012.

Throughout the adoption process, Amy Herrick learned about Kofi, who also made an impression.

“We had to go just to get some paperwork done, and he and a friend made sure to walk me and Ama back to the hotel where we were staying in the same little city to make sure we got back there OK,” Amy Herrick recalled. “I could tell that he was just a kind, caring kid.”

She inquired about adopting Kofi, too. He acknowledges he was initially hesitant.

“At first, I was really second guessing about it because I didn’t want to leave my little brother alone back there,” Kofi said.

Eventually, Kofi decided that adoption was “the best option.” The Herricks brought him home in December 2013.

Kofi said he thought he’d never see Ama again when the Herricks adopted her.

“That made me feel really happy that I got to see her and stay with her here forever,” Kofi said.

Amy Herrick said the three other children in the family — 16-year-old Madelyn, 13-year-old Ethan and 9-year-old Emma — welcomed Kofi and Ama from the start.

“They were so excited to have them join our family,” she said. “They’re like regular siblings. Sometimes they love each other and sometimes they don’t so much, but they were always very excited to have them come and join our family.”

Amy Herrick said Kofi was “really shy” when he was first brought home but that she has seen him “put himself out there more, as far as trying for things.”

He plays a djembe (a type of drum) and is running for student body office.

“He’s talking to girls, something he was afraid of doing before,” she said.

Kofi has a scholarship offer from Utah State University-Eastern, and Amy Herrick said he continues to put himself out there to see what other opportunities come his way.

“I’m always grateful for everything I have here,” Kofi said. “Going to school, waking up, getting free food … because in Ghana you don’t get all (that) stuff. It’s really hard. Sometimes we just eat like once a day, so here, eating three times a day, (that’s) something I appreciate.”

Contact Standard-Examiner sports reporter Ryan Comer at Follow him on Twitter at @RyanComerSe and on Facebook.

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