Former North Village winger Tyrell Burgess fulfilled a lifelong dream when he began his pro career with the Vancouver Whitecaps this week. Burgess, who will be playing for the USL Division One champions this season and possibly in the MLS next season, is aiming for big things as he takes the next step in his pro career.
James Whittaker caught up with the 22-year-old midfielder to talk about the forthcoming 'Bermuda derby' between the Whitecaps and Khano Smith's Seattle Sounders and his journey from breaking windows in backyard pick-up games to the verge of the big-time.
How does it feel to be one of only a handful of Bermudian pro soccer players?
It's a good feeling and I'm proud to be added to that list, there are some great names and I'm very pleased to be one of them.
How did you get linked with Vancouver and what did you have to go through before they decided to sign you?
I got a phone call from my PDL coach Brendan Burke at Reading Rage FC while I was in school at Lynn University.
He told me that the Whitecaps were very interested in me and asked me if I could get up to their player combine in Harrisburg, PA for their two day trial that was in joint with Harrisburg City Islanders.
The Whitecaps arranged my flight to go up and I made the trip. At the trial all the players were put through their paces in training sessions and small sided matches for the two days. I feel I had done pretty well after the combine and my coach Brendan had been in talks with the Whitecaps assistant coach throughout both days while I was up there.
They were very excited after the combine and wanted to take the next step. I return home over Christmas break to talk with my family and catch them up to speed with what was going on and they gave me the right direction and feedback I needed. That's when I decided to sign with the Whitecaps.
What do you hope to achieve with Vancouver?
As a new comer to the team and a rookie to USL division 1 I would like to grow as player and a person. Being in a professional environment in the sport that I love to play, I have to be willing to put in the work and learn, I want to develop into a better player and I'm sure the achievements will follow while I'm at Vancouver.
What does the immediate future hold?
Well the club has scheduled a preseason tour to Tanzania in March, all the players are looking forward to that because it's a once in a life time opportunity.
It will be an amazing trip where we can train and get matches in some good weather and also bring the squad together before our season opener a few weeks later.
I definitely need to get a digital camera soon.
The team may go to the MLS next year - will you be part of the squad if they do step up?
The team has a bid for the MLS in 2011 and I feel that they are leading the other cities for that bid and I really hope that they do get it. I definitely want to be a part of that once they make that transition and as you can see the club is already preparing for that with the age of the squad this year. So it will be very exciting once the official word comes out in the future.
How do you feel about that challenge?
I feel very good about the challenge to be playing for the Whitecaps. They are a great organization and they are very supportive and want to see improvements out of each player.
Mentally you have to keep yourself reminded that there are players all over the world that want the same opportunity that you have and to be ahead you have to work hard each and every day and live a healthy lifestyle.
Both you and Khano Smith are now on the west coast - will you meet up at all. Are you looking forward to maybe playing against him in the MLS?
Yea, I talked with Khano once I had decided to sign with the Whitecaps.
Seattle is not too far away and actually we play them in two preseason matches the first is on February 22 in Seattle.
That match will be very interesting being he plays left midfield and I play right midfield, we will definitely have a chat before and after the match.
The trip to Seattle is only two hours so I definitely want to get down and see them play at home when we're not on the road.
Who have been the most important people in your football career to date and why?
The most important people to date in my football career, wow the list will be long.
Firstly my father who started me out playing in the yard and down the field from a young age, he is my biggest critic and always looks at my game and tells me what I need to improve on to make my game better. His voice and his word is what I follow when I need guidance throughout my career thus far.
My mother has definitely been another person who has kept me grounded, and showed her fair share of support throughout my football career, even when I broke many windows playing in the yard when I was young.
I started my football career at Somerset as a pee wee. I can remember "Mussels Hunt" being one of my first coaches who started me out with the basics of football.
Eugene Dean was my coach at Total Football Academy which help me combine football with academics and got me focus on going to college to play football and get an education.
Andrew Bascome has also been a great coach of mine and has influence me with his Brazilian way of coaching. Kenny Thompson has been my youth coach and senior coach for many years and has basically seen me at each level of my growth as a footballer and just recently before I signed with the Whitecaps I was at home training with him and Khano doing work outs.
My high school coach at Wilbraham and Monson Academy, Gary Cook he was my coach, advisor and he has helped me to reach the college level.
Brendan Burke my PDL coach at Reading Rage FC, he has help me to take my game to the next level and has advised me in all the correct ways with his own experience in the game, he has definitely been a person I can call on.
Do you think other young Bermudians could make it to this level?
I know other young Bermudians will definitely make it to this level and beyond.
Bermuda has some of the best players the world has to offer they have to realize that and fulfil their potential to the greatest of their ability.
What advice would you give them?
As young player who dreams of becoming pro, they first must have the dream and desire to get there.
If they have the desire to become a professional then that's where their journey starts, it takes a lot of hard work on and off the field. Coming from Bermuda there are loads of opportunities to let your talent be seen.
Derek Broadley is introduction to the BFA will pay off, his plan of developing the youth is a made success by his track record.
The best advice has been said many times because it's true, hard work pays off...with that being said you can't settle for not working hard enough. Push yourself to the limits and be great!