Thursday, May 1, 2014

5.1.2014: Player Profile- Not on the Radar, College Student Athlete Becomes Major League Soccer Starter

          Pic by Sam Greene/Columbus Dispatch

Player Profile- Not on the Radar, College Student Athlete Becomes Major League Soccer Starter
By Ryan Kozlowski
Crewture Editor

Josh Williams was very close from never receiving the opportunity to become a professional player.

The right back, who has become the senior member of the 2014 Columbus Crew with over 60 appearances, under normal circumstances would've never received the chance to impress.

An unexpected phone call and a decision to answer in 2010 changed that.

Williams was in a college class at Cleveland State, an unknown number called.

Could've been a telemarketer. A creditor. But, for some reason Williams answered. It was Crew's Coach Brian Bliss.

Bliss called Williams, out of the blue, in 2010.

Bliss was on the phone because he wanted to possibly sign Josh. Bliss wanted the unknown Josh to be ready to be a backup signing in a hour for Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew, if another deal fell through on deadline day.

One could only imagine Williams reaction crouched in his class room.

On most days.. Josh wouldn't have answered an unknown number in the middle of class, could of let it go to voice mail, and continued to listen to his Sport Management lecture that afternoon.

If he did the usual, not answer his phone in class, chances are Josh Williams wouldn't be a Major League Soccer player today.

Josh likely would've instead struggled to get a foot in the door of the management side of sports, where six figure salaries are reserved only for upper management.

But, in a stroke of good fortune a higher profile, overseas signing did fall through on that day.

One Kwaku Nyamekye who never kicked a ball professionally and is now a trade support analyst in oil. 

Appears that one worked out for Williams, the Crew, and perhaps even Kwaku.

Kwaku Nyamekye

Now Williams, who was at the first Crew game in 1996 as an 8 year old fan, has over 60 appearances for the club that he has always followed.

Josh often took the road less traveled to get there.

Josh could've played baseball at Division I colleges. He had full rides to Kentucky and West Virginia.

But, Josh wanted to play soccer and went to the only place that would give him the same opportunity, Cleveland State.

Most would not turn down a Kentucky Wildcat or Mountaineer uniform for a Horizon league one. But, Josh did.

Following a successful career at Cleveland State, Josh played lower division soccer with the Cleveland Internationals and received semi-chances with the Crew in reserve exhibitions.

That is how the Columbus Crew's Brian Bliss became accustomed with the hard working Williams, mainly because he was in the area and persistent.

When those chances occurred with Columbus reserves luck played a role with Williams. Injuries gave Williams an opportunity to get on the field.

At Cleveland State

And apparently that was enough to be a last second signing.

But, Bliss won't take full credit for the discovery of Williams.

"Josh wasn't really on our radar, but we knew him," Bliss recalls. "He did OK in those college games (with the Crew). His geographic location was a big part of it."

For the next four seasons, Josh has been a starter for the Columbus Crew.

Not bad for someone who wasn't on a team's radar.
Was only signed because another deal fell through.
He was geographically close.
And he picked up his phone.


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