SAINT LEO, Fla. – Saint Leo University Men's Soccer Coach Keith Fulk has done a lot of notable things during his life to help promote the sport he loves. Recently, Fulk's ability to see soccer talent was solidified when one of his recruits, Neven Subotic, advanced to become the first American to play in a Champions League Final, a game considered the world's marquee soccer event.
Fulk's prowess in recruiting soccer players was highlighted in a recent Sports Illustrated article about Subotic's journey into professional soccer. Here is an excerpt of the story:
Now 24, Subotic is a seasoned six-year pro who has won two German league titles, but in 2004 he was just a 15-year-old kid training with his father, Zeljko, at G.T. Bray Park in Bradenton.
"I was at the park every day, either by myself or with my dad, just working on crossing drills, playing in pickup games, doing everything," said Subotic, whose first name rhymes with Kevin and last name is pronounced SOOB-uh-titch. But little did he know that a coach in the park had been watching him. Keith Fulk was an assistant on the U.S. under-17 national team, which has a residency program in Bradenton, and he would make some extra money by training youth teams in the park.
"I saw this tall, lanky kid," Fulk said. "If Field 1 was taken, Field 2 was open, and this kid would be shooting. He had a big bag of balls, and he'd work sometimes on volleys, sometimes on his left foot, sometimes on headers with anyone who'd serve him balls. But the thing I noticed more than anything was after he did this, he'd run laps around the field: two, four, six laps, even interval training. His work ethic and mentality were like a pro's.
"After two weeks of seeing this kid every day, I went up to him and said: 'Hey, what's your name? What's your deal?'"