So Walker, at what point growing up, did you decide that Pro soccer was the dream?
“I vividly remember in second grade writing down on a piece of paper what I wanted to be when I grew up. Now the first thing on the list was to be a professional athlete, at this time I didn’t know if it would be soccer or another sport that I was playing. The second thing on the list was to be a veterinarian but I obviously chose the first route and after eighth grade I chose to just play soccer, giving up basketball and baseball which I loved. I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be a pro athlete and then around eighth to ninth grade I decided I wanted that to be soccer”.
What was it like to be picked up by MLS franchise, FC Dallas?
“It was great, I had dreamt of being a pro athlete since I was very young and it was cool because it really marked the end of my youth career. It was a culmination of that hard work and so to be drafted It was finally transition day from soccer being a hobby and something that I loved doing to now being my job. It was a surprise to get drafted by Dallas because I had spoken with other teams but not to them at all. I had no idea where I was going to end up.”
Who is the best player that you have played against? Why?
“For me it was Thierry Henry, I got to play against him in his final season in the MLS. It’s a cool story, I was super pumped and had a great game, marking him on set pieces and I really didn’t feel like he has done much. Then on about the eightieth minute he checked back for a ball and spun off me, we were fighting for a ball over the top and he got in front of me and scored. In one moment he changed the game and it is something I will always remember and take pride in, that’s what separates the best from the rest. He can be out of it for most of the game and then do something out of the blue, it was a learning moment for me and a case of respecting that he is one of the greatest.”
What team do you support in world football?
“You know I really don’t, I am not like a crazy fanatic by any means. I think Manchester United is always my general response but growing up it wasn’t just soccer, I loved all sports in general. Manchester United is just the most common American response to English football”.
You are in the US U23s set up, next stop senior side?
“Yeah, we have just come to the end of this year’s cycle. Anytime you get to represent your country it is a huge honour so for me and for a lot of the guys, we have known each other since the U14 national team. So for us we were sitting around the dinner table thinking the worst thing about this is that this is our last camp together. So now the goal is making the senior World Cup squad someday.”
Can you tell us how you came to know God for yourself?
“I grew up as a pastor’s son and so I grew up in and around the church all the time, with your dad as a pastor you are kind of always in the spotlight and at school you are known as the pastor’s kid. It is just part of your identity. It comes with a lot of expectation to fit that role and my brothers and I embraced it, sometimes pastor’s kids rebel or end up following Jesus like their dad. For us it was great, we were in church on Sundays, it was really fun and our family is extremely tight. My parents have been an extremely Godly influence in my life and I remember that we used to do family devotions and they’d ask us kids what we would do in certain situations. Our family was connected firstly through our beliefs and church and secondly through sports. So that’s where I kind of got my base.”
— Hugh Breland (@hughbreland) April 20, 2014
Do you see your soccer ability as a gift from God?
“Absolutely, that’s what keeps my soccer I check because I think it helps you put everything into perspective when you think that all of this is a blessing. So if I am not utilising this gift then how is that honouring to him? You come back from a bad game or injury and it really frustrates you but it really does put everything into perspective when you see that all of this is a blessing that I have given. My faith really helps me to understand why I am doing what I am doing on a day to day basis. It definitely helps in a work ethic sense and I know that God has given me this competitive spirit and that gives me an edge on the field because I want to win.”
Do you had any positive chats about your faith with team mates?
“For sure. Last year was a really cool year for our team in particular, Zach Lloyd and Ryan Hollingshead are the two other strong believers on our team. So we had multiple conversations on some road trips about religion and creation, some really deep conversations and everyone was open. We had some really productive conversations with a handful of guys on the team and it helped to challenge us as well, why do I believe what I believe?
Also having to explain it strengthens my faith in Jesus and then they get in turn to ask questions that they wouldn’t ask normally in less open environments. It definitely helps to have guys like Ryan and Zach around so we can band together in those moments with guys on the team. There has definitely been some productivity there”.
Do you have a favourite Bible verse that encourages you?
“The verse is that I have always felt connected to is Isaiah 52:7, ‘how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news’. For me when I first read that I immediately connected that with soccer because it is the beautiful game, we use our feet and so we can be messengers through Soccer. That’s my main verse”.