By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Growing up in places like Virginia, Texas and Tennessee, Brendon Van Emelen spent time on the gridiron and diamond.
But for the son of Jan and Luke Van Emelen, the soccer field felt like home. And the day of the Navy kid in California and Italy gave him the knowledge, skills and time he needed to become a college-caliber player in the sport.
And on March 6 in the Millington Central High School Library, Brendon signed a national letter of intent to play soccer at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala.
“This is what I always wanted to do when I was little,” he said. “I’ve been playing since I was 5 and it’s always been something I love to do. I’ve always gone back to it even if I was playing another sport.
“Different coaching, a lot of good coaching,” Brendon added, “in California is where I really started getting to where I am now. Italy helped as well a lot.”
Seven years into playing soccer, Brendon and family moved overseas to Italy. Out of the eight places he lived in during his lifetime, that was the one place soccer was king.
Van Emelen lived in Italy when he was 12 and 13 years old. Then a year later the family moved to California.
“He threw a baseball for a little while,” Luke recalled. “We let him play the sport he wanted to play the most and that happen to be soccer.”
“When he was little, he played it all,” Jan said. “And that’s when he decided he liked soccer the best.”
So when the family arrived in Millington toward the end of Brennan’s sophomore year, he was eying a spot on Larry Dagen’s Trojan Soccer team. With natural gifts like his length, speed and strength, Dagen was excited to add Van Emelen to his squad.
Then his junior year, Brendon displayed his ball skills and shot ability helping the Trojans stay near atop District 14-3A. But his tall, strong frame, Van Emelen not only drew attention from several colleges for soccer.
The Millington Football coaches approached Van Emelen to come out for his senior year to use his strong leg to help the Trojans.
“Football definitely helped my leg strength and I really liked kicking for the football team,” Brendon said. “And I really like the environment of the football team. It kept me busy and it was a real good experience.”
Van Emelen said his time at MCHS has been worthwhile and benefited his soccer game.
“All my friends helped me get to where I am,” he said. “They’re always pushing me and just going out practicing with all the pick-up games. They helped me have fun and enjoy what I do.”
Luke said Millington has been a blessing for his oldest son. He enjoyed watching him on Friday nights kicking extra points and field goals.
Now the family has one more season of Brendon on the Trojan Soccer Field before he heads to Alabama.
“That’s wonderful,” he said. “We’re very happy with the school he’s going to. We met the coach and it was really good academics there. And how old the school is, the way it’s different. It’s not a huge school. They have more his style of learning.
“They concentrate a lot more academics as well as sports,” Luke continued. “We hope he continues on as far as he can go in both the sport and academics. I hope he does well. We’re very proud of him.”
Brendon said he wouldn’t have reached his goal in the game he loves if his family didn’t support his decisions along the way.
“They’ve always been there, pushing me and getting me on the teams that I should be on to improve like I have,” he concluded. “They’re always taking me to practice or taking me to extra practices my coaches asked me to. They just pushed me to get to where I am.”