Juan Hernandez has put in a great shift for the Chattanooga Football Club.
After eight seasons playing for CFC, which included 126 matches and over 10,000 minutes played on the soccer field, Hernandez will hang up his playing cleats at the age of 33.
Perhaps the club's most popular player may not have arrived in Chattanooga if not for a spur of the moment trip.
"I came here for the sole reason to visit my friend Samuel Goni who was playing for CFC at the time," Hernandez said. "I asked coach Bill Elliott at the time if I could train one day with the team, and he said yes. At the end of practice coach asked if I wanted to stay on the team. It was a no brainer because the other team I was supposed to play for that year contacted me last minute and said they no longer had a spot. That was a major blessing because after that, the rest is history."
Hernandez not only fell in love with the city of Chattanooga and its grassroots soccer club, but helped produce some of the biggest moments in the history for Chattanooga FC starting his debut season in 2015 with a trip to the National Premier Soccer League national championship game.
The Madrid, Spain native starred at the attacking midfield position under coach Elliott, while later moving into a defensive midfield position for his last three professional seasons.
Hernandez hangs up his No. 10 jersey as the all-time leader in assists for CFC. He also scored the club's first professional goal in the National Independent Soccer Association's Legends Cup in a 4-1 home victory over the Los Angeles Force on April 13, 2021.
"I always love working," Hernandez said. "To be a good player you have to love to work hard and understand that it is a process. The technical abilities came from a lot of work that I enjoyed. I didn't ever see it as work. It's just what I love to do, so I just did it.
"While growing up in Spain I had family members who were national team and Olympic coaches. They all instilled in me that even as a player it's important to have a coach's mentality. When watching soccer on TV, I was trying to learn from the players at my position. I have always had a love for learning and improving."
Hernandez will continue the family tradition of coaching as he will progress from player to coach now with Chattanooga FC. Starting this upcoming season he will be a performance coach for the CFC men, an assistant coach for the CFC women and will take on the Coaching director role for the CFC Academy.
While no men's player for CFC will be allowed to wear his No. 10 this season, his wife Summer Hernandez (Lanter) will do so while returning to play for the CFC women.
"I have learned to love helping others because that is what the game has done for me," Hernandez said. "My family has always reminded me that the game is a tool to also be a better person. If I can use the game to help people be better on and off the field, I feel like I have accomplished something special."
Two moments in his CFC career stand out the most to Hernandez.
"My favorite moment was getting to play in the NPSL national championship match in front of 18,227 people in Finley Stadium my first year in 2015," said Hernandez, who is a die-hard Real Madrid fan. "I never expected to be a part of something like that. I had some good moments in that game and is one I will always cherish.
"My second top moment was when we played Real Betis. Growing up one of my favorite players I followed was Joaquín. We were both captains that day for our teams and heard the national anthem from Spain. That was really special to me."
As the first player to have a bobblehead night for the club, Hernandez is thankful for all of his supporters.
"I never expected to be where I am at right now," Hernandez said. "I came out here and displayed my passion for the game I love and I am happy people have appreciated it. Nothing about me is going to change. I am going to pour everything into my coaching and love every second along the way."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at firstname.lastname@example.org