Life can have this fascinating way of coming full circle. A way of bringing us back to our roots on pathways that don’t become clear until a glance is taken in the rear-view mirror – which only happens once we’re at a place to truly call home. It is that sense of settlement that makes us feel secure enough to take a look back, and while the vision isn’t completely clear, it’s no longer a muddled mess; it’s an exciting and enthralling chance to see the events of the past lead to an optimistic future.
It’s a journey towards a new position in life to call home.
For Jesse Flores, 18, life is shaping a path to venture back to a home he’s never visited, it’s a dream scenario with love and passion at the core, and soccer as the catalyst.
“I started playing soccer when I was 4, but I didn’t start to take it seriously until freshman year of high school,” describes Jesse with the tone and tenor of someone fondly remembering the moment they first fell in love.
For Jesse, soccer has always had that relationship. Sports are a bond that can bring generations, especially a father and son, together in ways that transcend the playing field.
“I remember growing up and watching Atlas games on TV with my dad. They’ve always been my favorite team.”
While Jesse is from Wyoming, MI, his parents Jose and Icela both hail from Guadalajara, Mexico, where Jose played soccer for the youth team Atlas Fútbol Club. That bond to Atlas, and Mexican soccer, was passed down to Jesse.
With a new focus on the game as a freshman at Wyoming High School, Jesse’s game started to flourish. As a three-year varsity goalie, Jesse became a leader on the team and utilized his 6’3″ frame and long wingspan to defend the cage. His size and leadership allowed Jesse to lead the state in saves his senior season and earned him post-season honors.
Even with all the success, it was hard to imagine playing soccer at the next level.
“I didn’t consider it a real possibility until my high school coach, Romer Carrasco, told me that he thought I could play at the next level. Once I realized an opportunity after high school was possible, more doors opened up.”
Jesse wound up earning a scholarship to play soccer at the University of Saint Francis in Indiana. While the team struggled this past season, Jesse played well and compiled a highlight film to send out to professional teams in Mexico.
A professional opportunity was still nothing more than a dream.
“I connected with an agent in California who works with young players. He gets your info and film in front of Mexican teams,” recounts Jesse as he racks his brain, still marveling at the details of his incredible journey and opportunities awaiting on the path before him. “I’ve always dreamed of playing professionally, but I didn’t know if I’d have a chance.”
Since that time, two teams have reached out to Jesse to schedule tryouts: Chiapas Fútbol Club and hometown favorite Atlas Fútbol Club of Guadalajara. The tryout with Chiapas is already in the books, and the Atlas tryout will happen this summer. Chiapas didn’t offer a contract, but Jesse took some positives from the experience to build on before the tryout with Atlas.
“I didn’t end up getting the contract with Chiapas, but I was able to get a feel for how a professional tryout works. I was nervous and didn’t play loose. That won’t happen next time.” The club also gave Jesse some feedback on his play. “They told me to work on my conditioning, but also that they saw my potential. That was great to hear because it gives me more confidence knowing that I have the tools and the skill. I can always work on my conditioning!”
In the meantime, before the tryout with Atlas, Jesse will continue his education and playing career at Davenport University after transferring from Saint Francis to be closer to home. The newfound possibilities of becoming a professional soccer player mean more to Jesse than just personal achievement; he sees it as an opportunity to inspire.
“I want to inspire others as I go along. I was once that young kid who wanted to be professional, and now I have that opportunity. I want to do my best and achieve what I can so I can give back to the community of Wyoming and my high school. They’ve been so supportive of me up until this point. I want to give it back.”
This summer, Jesse will travel down to Guadalajara for an opportunity of a lifetime. Not only will he be trying out for his childhood team, but Jesse will visit his parents’ birthplace and meet family for the first time. He will see the city that his favorite soccer team calls home and immerse himself with the Club he hopes to call his own.
Jesse’s story is more than just an inspirational tale; it is a journey of family and sport coming full circle because of the bond created by a father, a son, their team, and a ball.