Trinidad star puts big boot in Warrior soccer program

Phil Cash
Date Published: 
Milwaukee Sentinel

Marquette's Hayden KnightMarquette's Hayden Knight: wants to play pro soccer.

Hayden Knight grew up with the memory of thousands of soccer fans screaming his brother's name.

It's the type of adulation he'll probably never hear, not at Marquette University anyway. The appreciative and vociferous roar of the crowd belongs to the basketball player at MU.

"I don't think I'll ever forget sitting in the stadium on the island (Trinidad) and hearing thousands screaming for my brother when he played soccer," said Knight, who last year became one of the first players in the history of Marquette to receive a soccer scholarship.

Yet the average turnout, according to Knight, for the Warrior soccer games is lucky to hit 100.

"Our biggest crowd was when we played UWM," he continued. "I think there were about 700 for that one. That's out big rival." The Warriors play UWM on Sept. 19 this season.

Sure, it bothers Knight, who lived nine years in Trinidad before he and his family moved to Brooklyn, N.Y. But now, there are more important goals for Knight.

Beating a nationally recognized soccer school like UWM would undoubtedly make Knight's senior season, but he's plotting bigger goals.

"I'd like to see our team go undefeated," said Knight, whose teammates open their season Saturday at UW — Stevens Point. "That would mean a possible ranking and abid to a tournament.

"Then I would like to become Marquette's leading all-time soccer scorer for the season," he said. Knight barely missed that coveted distinction last season when he scored 16 goals, missing Ed Nomo Ongolo's mark by one. Nomo established the record in 1964.

"It is sort of inglorious to play soccer here. You're always in the shadow of someone like Butch Lee or Bo Ellis. The only people who really know what we are doing are a few fans and our friends."

But Knight's ability hasn't gone unnoticed.

Bobby Gansler, a former MU soccer player and now assistant coach of the US National soccer team, played with Knight last summer on the Bavarian Soccer Club team.

"He helped me tremendously," said Knight of Gansler. "He helped me with the tactical part of the game and was responsible for me becoming a better player."

So impressed was Gansler with Knight's improvement and ability that he hinted to Knight that he had talked with people in the North American Soccer League about drafting him in January of this year.

"I know he (Gansler) talked about the draft, and I certainly would like to give the pros a try," continued Knight. "It's been a dream of mine to play pro soccer."

But Knight's world isn't confined to the chalk lines of a soccer field.

"I am going to apply to Marquette and Wisconsin's law school this year," said Knight, whose brother, Lloyd, also plays for Marquette's soccer team. "My mother always wanted me to be a lawyer and never play sports."

Unfortunately, Knight's mother has never seen him play soccer, and right now is very sick. She's been in the hospital since March with pulmonary embolism.

"She always says to me, 'Before I die, I hope God lets me see you play.'"

Knight, who plays halfback, credits much of Marquette's soccer success to coach Joe Born.

"His attitude and coaching ability accounts for more than 50% of the team's success," said Knight of Born. "Realistically, we're not that talented, but he's gotten the most out of us."