07.28.2016 | By John Bechtle for sanjacsports.com
HOUSTON- It’s all about controlling adversity.
To most, it sounds simple enough, but it’s an important few words that might best be used to describe the soccer career of former Clear Brook High School star Cyprian Hedrick. Now in his fifth professional season, including third straight with the Oklahoma City Energy of the United Soccer League, Hedrick seems to be standing on solid ground. He’s starting and playing regular minutes as a defender with the Energy, but it hasn’t always been that way for the now 27-year-old pro.
The Doula, Cameroon native played at Clear Brook High School, where he was one of the Wolverines’ leading goal scorers ever before graduating in 2007. Admittedly, his grades weren’t good enough for Hedrick to be eligible to play at a four-year institution. So he headed just blocks from home to San Jacinto College South, and what an awakening he received. One of the area’s top scorers in 2007 while at Brook, Hedrick figured he could simply do the same at SJC. But David Santesteban, then the San Jacinto College men’s soccer head coach, had other ideas.
Santesteban’s 2006 team had gone 18-2-1 and finished the regular season as the No. 9 ranked program in the National Junior College Athletic Association. Heading into the 2007 campaign, which began just three months after Hedrick’s graduation from Clear Brook, SJC was loaded at the striker (forward) position. At the suggestion of Santesteban, Hedrick red-shirted during the 2007 season and focused on his academics while practicing and training off the field with the team. It’s not a trendy pick for all young players, but Hedrick accepted it.
“Because the position I wanted to play (striker) was full that year, coach suggested I basically take that year off from playing, handle my grades and train with the team,” Hedrick said. “It certainly humbles you. Here I was a young player who had scored 20-something goals at Clear Brook, and I had somebody telling me I wasn’t good enough to play. It challenges you. You can either accept it and keep working hard, or you can crumble and quit. I knew that if I was eventually given a chance, I could persevere. I knew I could bounce back and be a productive player.” Hedrick did just that.
Shifting to defender in 2008, Hedrick helped San Jacinto College reach the NJCAA title game and was a National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-Region Honorable Mention pick. The team finished 18-2-2 overall that season, and Hedrick, like several SJC players before him, headed to NCAA Division I Coastal Carolina University.
Continuing to impress at defender, Hedrick excelled both on and off the field at Coastal Carolina. In 2011 as a senior, Hedrick reeled in the accolades as the Chanticleers reached the second round of the NCAA postseason tournament before losing to national power North Carolina. A first team All-Big South Conference pick, Hedrick was also named the Big South Defensive Player of the Year. Later in the offseason, Hedrick made his way onto the NSCAA Men’s Collegiate Scholar All-America First Team. His grade-point-average came in at 3.40.
With a bachelor’s degree in marketing in hand, Hedrick was the 30th overall pick of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft by Sporting KS of the MLS. Two months later, he broke his leg and missed a year. He rehabbed, recovered and then played with Phoenix in 2013 before that team folded. Perhaps at another crossroads, Hedrick caught a break. In 2012, he was a teammate at Sporting KC of goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, who retired in 2013 after winning the MLS Cup with Sporting KC. Nielsen then quickly became head coach at OKC. Hedrick placed a call.
“I just asked Jimmy if I could come play for him in OKC,” said Hedrick, who by this time had fathered a newborn with his current fiancé Kelsey Mueller. Together, the two are now parents to 2-year-old Charlotte. Hedrick and his fiancé plan to wed this December.
“So far, I’ve done well,” Hedrick said. “It’s all about consistency, and I know that what I put in is what I’m going to get out of it. I’m here to help my teammates and to ultimately help the team. I have a lot to improve on, and I have the hunger to do that. I wouldn’t be able to do this without Kelsey’s support. We are a traveling family because of soccer. I met her in Kansas City, and she has been here for the whole ride. Without her doing what she does for our family, it would be much harder for me to get my job done. She has made a big sacrifice to help us get where we are, and I just want to keep doing my part.”
Like most professional athletes, Hedrick has suffered both injuries and setbacks during his career. He’s smart enough to know that his career could end in 2016 or could very well extend another several seasons. Regardless, his mindset allows Hedrick to be prepared for anything that comes his way.
“The biggest part of being a pro is to keep fighting through things,” he said. “Every day is a battle to stay out there and earn minutes. It’s about controlling adversity. I’m really confident in my abilities and what I bring to the field. It’s a dog eat dog world out there. You just have to go out there and get it done. I realize that I am very fortunate to have a job in professional sports. I’m not working a desk job right now and working 8 to 5, five days a week. I understand how fortunate that is, but I also know that it’s never good enough. Everybody has a job to do, and at the end of the day you just have to do it, no matter what it takes.”
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.