My draft day experience

Walker Zimmerman recalls the 2013 MLS SuperDraft

FRISCO, Texas -- 2013 was a good year. It was a year that tested me more than any other. A year full of frustration, a year full of joy, but ultimately, a year full of learning. I learned how to accomplish new things: how to cook for myself, how to pay my bills, how to dress up for team halloween parties (pictured below) and when given a water bottle on the bench by a senior player, how to make sure that the top is fastened securely.

It was a year where a new city became a home, new experiences became a way of life and new people became some of my best friends. To recall that most of these experiences were dependent on one day, one moment; well, it reminds me of how monumental the events on January 17, 2013 actually were.

It’s hard to explain what it feels like when draft day finally rolls around, and it’s hard to figure out when to pick up the story. Do I begin with telling you my dreams as a child of one day becoming a professional athlete? Do I begin with telling you about a slide show of MLS players at Region Camp when I “just knew” I would be on that screen one day? Do I talk about all the missed school dances and all of the events I missed while traveling to soccer tournaments? This journey of becoming a professional soccer player is full of little stories and small successes and setbacks, but you can’t really have the draft day without having the journey.

If I could describe the draft week as a whole using one word it would be “speculation.” I remember talking to my agent and reading headlines just trying to piece together an impossible puzzle. The fact of the matter is, no one knows where you’re going to end up. I wish I could go back to that week and not even worry about which team would draft me. I remember constantly being on my phone seeking information and responding to friends about different scenarios, but it was all a waste of time and energy.

Leading up to the draft, I heard I was either going to be drafted by New England, Toronto or Colorado. Those were the only options I played out in my head. Those were the only teams I considered real possibilities, as they were the only teams I had talked to and met with. The speculation continued in my mind when the night before the draft, New England traded for the number one pick, and within minutes of hearing that news, New England head coach Jay Heaps called me into his room to meet with him. I thought the conversation went great and at the end of it he told me, “No matter what happens tomorrow, just enjoy it.” I wish I would have taken his advice.

I went back to my parents’ room in the hotel and talked with them about how all of the meetings had gone and they, like many others, encouraged me to enjoy the moment. We prayed before bed and I headed back to my room for the night to relax and get some sleep. It was then, lying in my bed, that I remembered I would have to give a speech the next day after going on stage. I made a notecard with an idea of what I would say and people I wanted to thank, and at the end of the speech I had written “Let’s go (team name).” I practiced that speech three times, each time saying a different team: "Let’s Go Revs," "Let’s Go Rapids," and "Let’s Go Toronto."

January 17 finally arrived. After getting dressed up and eating breakfast with a bunch of the draftees, it was time to walk over to the conference room where the draft was held. Every player made the long walk with their entourages of family, coaches and friends surrounding them. I took my seat, said another quick prayer and was ready to see where I would end up: New England, Toronto or Colorado. These were my options.

“With the number one pick in the 2013 MLS Superdraft, the New England Revolution select..."

*Drum roll please...*

"Andrew Farrell."

Okay, one team off the list, two to go.

“Toronto FC selects...Kyle Bekker”

Well, looks like it’s Colorado! *Proceeded to give my dad a fist pound.*

But once again everyone, I am reminding you of what I would change if I could go back in time. Speculation is a waste of time and energy.

“With the sixth pick of the 2013 MLS Superdraft, Colorado selects, member of Generation adidas..."

...could be me...

"...Deshorn Brown.”

Wellllll, this is interesting.

I remember thinking to myself at this moment, "Well now I have absolutely no idea of where I am going to end up." I remember feeling a sense of anger, a sense of resentment and thinking, "I can’t wait to play these teams that have passed me up."

“With the seventh pick of the 2013 MLS Superdraft, FC Dallas select, from Furman University, Walker Zimmerman.”

It was in this moment that I had a sense of relief that I wasn’t going to sit around any longer, waiting for my name to be called, but I was also anxious. I hadn’t researched anything about FC Dallas. I didn’t even know they were interested in me, and I didn’t even know the coaches' names. I gave a hug to my parents and walked on stage with the scarf having been placed around my neck. I gave my speech and when I got to the end I got to say words that I hadn’t practiced before: “Let’s go FC Dallas!”

The rest of the draft day is exhausting. Picture after picture, interview after interview, meeting after meeting. All the while it was as if I didn’t comprehend what was going on. It wasn’t until leaving the draft and flying home to Atlanta that I realized all of the things that were about to change. I was going to be in a new city. I was going to have new experiences. I was going to be surrounded with new people. It’s funny how things work out. Blessings in disguise. Getting drafted to FC Dallas was certainly that. My new city is now home. My new experiences are now a way of life, and my new teammates, well they are some of my best friends. 2013 was a good year.