As the lights reflected off his sweaty, golden brown hair, he sprints to clear the ball away from a driving forward. Just when the ball is about to be launched in the back of the net, he swoops in and clears the ball off the practice field.
It's two days before freshman midfielder Aidan Morris’ first collegiate game with IU men's soccer.
While some freshmen experienced pregame jitters about their first home opener, Morris had his mind focused on a bigger picture.
“Be the best player in all of college, that’s my goal,” Morris said.
In order to be the best player, Morris said everything must start with his leadership abilities on the team. The catch is he is joining a roster that already has many voices and big names.
There are 18 freshmen trying to find their roles on IU head coach Todd Yeagley’s squad. Some may not see much, if any, time on the field this season. Others will be role players off the bench.
Morris will not settle for anything less than being a leader on Yeagley’s team.
“Every time you step on the field, someone should be able to pick you out and be like, ‘Wow, this guy stands out,’” Morris said. “Day in and day out, focus on the details, and when things are going tough, the best leaders will pick the team back up and guide them the right way.”
Hailing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the No. 61 recruit according to Top Drawer Soccer has no shortage of leadership experience.
Morris played for the U.S. U-18 men's national team and guided Columbus Crew’s first-team to a third place finish in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy with the U-19.
“He is certainly one of the featured freshmen in the country,” Yeagley said. “I love his fight. I love his tenacity.”
IU’s theme for 2019 has been veteran leaders welcoming in the newer players. As Morris adjusts to the new atmosphere and builds relationships with the older guys, he pieces together the image of the leader he wants to be.
One of the teammates he looks up to is sophomore defender Jack Maher.
“Jack has been a big voice, always positive and a great kid on and off the field,” Morris said. “He’s a perfect example of what I have to be.”
During IU’s 3-2 double overtime win against the University of Pittsburgh on Aug. 30, Morris said he felt his presence was not as evident as it should have been in the first half. After reflecting on the strong communication of a shouting Maher and other veterans, the freshman became a more active playmaker the remainder of the game.
“I felt like the team needed me in the second half, and I stepped up not only on the ball, but vocally giving pointers to people and letting them know that I’m here now and I’m ready,” Morris said.
Continuing to be more vocal and build chemistry with his new teammates will be important steps for Morris moving forward.
As an athlete aspiring to one day play for Manchester United, the first soccer jersey he ever received, Morris said being the best leader going forward means learning from mistakes, being a guy others can trust and allowing the coaching staff and team leaders to mold him into the superstar he aims to be.
“It’s a big role, but I’m looking forward to filling Todd’s overall goal for me on the team this year,” Morris said. “He is forming me into the player I need to be for myself and for the team.”
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