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May 13, 2018

Grace and Opportunity Challenge Prince Senior

Written by Amy Frierson

 

When Prince Avenue senior Daniel Calderon asked to meet the soccer coach at North Greenville University, he was just wanting to learn more about the program and hoping the coach would be able to put a name with a face. After all, recruiting season had passed, and Daniel had not even made a highlight film or attended any preview days. Little did he know that that one meeting with Coach Bill Martin would change his life.

But that is the way it has been for Daniel - unexpected opportunities that charted his course and changed his life. “Growing up, I did not have the best situation. I came from a poor family that could not take care of me. Eventually, I ended up in foster care. I bounced around from place to place, but in 2011, I came to Athens to a WinShape Homes family,” Daniel explains, recognizing that as the moment that changed the trajectory of his life. “I finally had a loving family with parents who believed in me and gave me a lot of encouragement and discipline even when I didn’t want it.” It was at that time that Daniel and his older sister and younger brother started to attend Prince Avenue Christian School.

“When I first came to Prince, I did not know much about Jesus or the Bible. I learned a lot and grew spiritually. The teachers were invested in the students and took time to get to know us. Academics were never more than I could handle but were always very challenging. I feel prepared for college.”

Because of his tumultuous childhood, it was not until his middle school years at Prince that Daniel first began to participate in sports. He first joined the middle school football team and continued playing through all four varsity years for the Wolverines. Known for his speed, Daniel ran Varsity Track his sophomore year, but it was not until his junior year of high school that Daniel stepped onto a soccer field. He quickly realized which sport had his heart. “I really fell in love with soccer. It is fast-paced. There is never a dull moment.” But Daniel knew he had a lot to learn. “Most of these kids have played soccer their whole lives. I still do not know a lot about the game. I need to improve my touch and my game IQ. I know there is a lot of room for improvement.”

North Greenville University Coach Bill Martin knew this also, but there was something about Daniel that made him a standout. Coach Martin took the time to visit with Daniel and his father on their second visit to NGU and took an interest in his story. “We look for quality young men who not only have the academic and athletic pieces, but also the character. We look for young men of integrity who will work hard and do the right thing, and that is Daniel.”

Coach Martin followed through, coming to Prince to watch Daniel play. Daniel explains the moment that helped him make his college decision. “Coach Martin took me and my parents to dinner afterward and invited me to come play soccer at North Greenville. I was taken aback. I was not expecting that. I never thought playing soccer in college was a real possibility. In that moment I felt blessed and knew that it was another unexpected opportunity that I had to take advantage of.”

Coach Martin explained his insight into Daniel’s story. “Daniel’s life has been marked by grace. This opportunity is another moment in his life that is also marked by grace, and we are excited to be a part of that.”

The events that led Daniel to sign with NGU were a flurry of activity and all happened very quickly, but those in Daniel’s life were pleased for him. Wolverine Head Coach Toby Tate explained, “Daniel is a smart, hardworking athlete, and it will be hard to replace him next year. His positive attitude and leadership skills will be missed. I am very excited to see him take on the challenge at the next level and to see how God will use him at NGU.”

For his part, Daniel is also excited but knows he has a challenge ahead of him. “College will definitely demand a lot more time and effort than high school has, but I am ready for the challenge."  Upon reflection, Daniel is filled with gratitude. “Looking back, I could have ended up in a far worse situation. I came to a loving family, got a really good education, and had some great mentors at Prince.”

When asked what advice he would offer younger students at Prince, Daniel knows immediately what he would say. “Know that everything can get better, and everything happens for a reason. You have to believe in the plan God has for you.”

 


     
Prince Head Coach Toby Tate, Daniel Calderon,           Daniel's family left to right:  Addie Lee Frierson, 
& NGU Head Coach Bill Martin                                         Mayra Leyva, Charlie Frierson, Amy Frierson,
                                                                                                  Daniel Calderon, Richard Frierson, Ruben Calderon,
                                                                                                  & Kathryn Anne Frierson