Felipe Lawall wanted to play for his former college soccer coach this summer. First-year Chattanooga Football Club coach Bill Elliott initially turned him down.
Elliott coached Lawall at the University of West Florida -- Lawall also spent a few years as his assistant coach -- and called him "the most creative player I've coached." So why not add him to the roster?
Like Elliott, the 31-year-old Lawall lives in Pensacola, Fla. He has a wife and a family. And during May, because of his responsibilities as a high school teacher and club coach, the midfielder was going to have to spend his weeks in Pensacola and his weekends with CFC.
"I did try to talk him out of it," Elliott said. "I said you've got a wife and three kids and it's a long way. ... I think I told him no like two or three times, but he kept going."
Lawall, a former Major Indoor Soccer League draft pick, wouldn't be deterred, even by the six-hour drive each way.
"We'd always joked about me coming to play for him," Lawall said, "but when he told me about the environment and all the fans in Chattanooga, it just got me excited to come and play.
"After I showed up in Chattanooga for my first training session and then saw all the fans at the first game, it proved to me that I made the right choice."
Chattanooga FC (2-1-1), which hosts the Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves (3-0) at 7 tonight at Finley Stadium, does not pay its players. The club provides them a place to stay while they're in Chattanooga, but Lawall had to cover the cost of traveling during the first four weeks of the season.
The good news for him is that starting this weekend he will be staying in Chattanooga for a while. Like some other CFC players, he will work soccer camps during the week.
Elliott said Lawall's willingness to travel so far to play shows how much he enjoys the game.
"I was thinking about this and [CFC] kind of has the motto, 'For the Love of the Game.' He fits that motto better than anybody I've ever met in my life," Elliott said. "He really does it for the love of the game. He's got such a passion for playing."
CFC general manager Sean McDaniel said Lawall has a lot to offer the team, especially the younger players.
"He offers a perspective, being 10 years older than a lot of our guys, that they just can't see yet," McDaniel said. "We're very happy to have a good, grounded individual, who's also one of the best guys on our team."
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...