Categorized | Sports

Langford fulfills the promise he made at 10 years old

By Thomas Sellers Jr.Paul Langford on goalLangford signing

On soccer fields throughout Millington like Centennial Park, people began to recognize the talents and skills of Paul Langford.

Approaching a crossroad in his athletic life, Paul’s parents Jim and Mary asked him to make a decision between playing baseball or soccer competitively. Paul would make a decision that would lead him to play the most popular sport in the world at Tipton-Rosemark Academy, Collierville and even in England.

The impressive resume’ compiled by Langford over the past 7 years led to a scholarship offer from The University of Memphis. And on Jan. 22 Langford held a signing ceremony in the offices of his competitive team the Collierville Lobos with his parents, younger brother Alex and grandparents Bob and Joann.

“It was just what I liked better,” Paul recalled of his decision to play soccer. “I just said I like soccer better because there’s more action. And this guy named Louis Hale, who was a coach of one of the other rec teams, told my Dad I shouldn’t be in rec league. I should go look at competitive. That’s what when we started looking.”

Mary said suggestions and advice from other coaches and parents started a journey to Collierville.

“He started in rec soccer in Millington when he was about 6,” she recalled. “And he started competitive when he was 10.”

And before Paul suited up for his competitive team, he went to see his future college coach conduct a camp. And the 10-year-old had a feeling Tiger Head Coach Richie Grant would be his college skipper.

“When he was 10 we said, ‘It’s time to choose. If you’re going to be serious about a sport,’” Jim recalled. “Frankly we thought it was baseball. He came to us and said he was more interested in soccer. We took him to camp when he was 10. It happen to be with Richie Grant, the coach of Memphis. He told Richie he was going to play for him. I reminded him of that story 7 years later.”

As the recruiting process neared an end for Paul, the 17-year-old reminded Grant of that encounter.

“We were just watching and Richie, the head coach, came over to talk with us,” Paul said. “For some reason I just told him, ‘I’m going to play for you one day.’ I am now. I guess it was in my heart. I didn’t think about saying that. I just said it.

“Whenever I committed, we were e-mailing back and forth,” he continued. “And I reminded him of that. He remembered it. When I said that too him, he said back then, ‘I’ll be old by then.’ He remembered and in the e-mail he said, ‘I guess I’m old now.’”

Winning has become old habit at Memphis under Grant. In 13 seasons with the Tigers, Grant has won 118 games, led Memphis to the NCAA Tournament and won conference titles.

Lobos Coach Mike Knowles said after working with Paul for a year and half, he knows he will contribute to one of the best Division I programs in the nation.

“Numerous skills,” he noted. “One of the things that stuck out to me was his will to improve, his fantastic work rate in practice. That often goes missing from a lot of players. They’ll turn up for match days but not practices. That’s why he practices exactly like he plays. He gives 110 percent. He improved his finishing throughout the year and his movement off the ball is excellent.”

Despite the skill set, Jim was still in aw of his son’s achievement.

“Surprised, but a long time coming,” he acknowledged. “But I didn’t see it coming. I can’t tell you why. I don’t know. I guess I couldn’t tell you how he measured up in soccer. I come from a baseball background. I feel like I know a little bit about that sport. But really didn’t know much about soccer. So I guess frankly he’s better than I thought.”

Jim said the decision to come out to Collierville for club soccer was the most important move made in Paul’s progression to a Division I scholarship.

“It was critical,” he said. “When we were in the rec leagues at Millington and Millington YMCA, there were several people who said he needs to be playing competitively. We did our homework and looked around. And in this region in this area, the Collierville Lobos program is probably one of the best, if not the best.

“And the coaching they’ve got, Mike’s a former pro player from England,” Jim added. “Those things are just a huge difference. The Lord did it. He put it in place. And my Dad always said, ‘He’s from Millington, Tenn. The kids there know if Paul can do it, anybody can do it.’

Paul has represented Millington and Shelby County on several soccer fields over the years winning honors and team championships.

“Just all the exposure to soccer as much as you can get helps everytime you’re out there playing,” Paul noted. “Especially when I went to England, how physical they play. It’s just so much more physical. And I think that’s going to help me in the college game. In college the referees let a lot more stuff go.

And the mental side of it too, I’ve just got to work hard every play.”

Wearing several uniforms over his career, Paul will now wear the jersey he had a hunch about 7 years ago. It’s official, Paul Langford, Memphis Tiger.

“It sounds perfect,” he concluded. “I had a lot of schools on my list, but Memphis was always at the top. It just seems like a perfect fit for me.”

 

About Langford

Millington YMCA soccer from age 6 to 10–2001 thru 2005

Told Coach Richie Grant (Memphis) he would play for him, January 2006

Competitive Club Soccer (mostly with Collierville Lobos) from 2006 to 2012

High School soccer,TRA Varsity 2009, 2010, 8th grade & 9th grade, Leading scorer both years, All District

Superclubs National U15 2009 team to England, leading scorer

Memphis Men’s League 2011, 2012

Graduated from Bolton

TN ODP (Olympic Development Program) 95 team 2007-2012

TN ODP team won Region 3 Championship 2011

Region 3 Pool team member 2012

First ever early entry University of Memphis Soccer player, January 2012

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