Adrien Vakerics has played soccer as long as he can remember. The past four years he’s been a starter on the varsity squad at Liberty County High School.
The Panther midfielder will remain a big cat as he competes for a spot on the LaGrange College Panthers and will report to campus on Aug. 17.
LaGrange College is a Division III school and while they don’t offer athletic scholarships, Vakerics 3.5-3.6 GPA was enough to get him an academic scholarship and the chance to pursue his dream of playing soccer at the next level.
“I am proud and thrilled that he is pursuing his dreams and goals,” his mother, Annick LeBron, said. “I know that he breathes soccer, and that he also takes his education seriously.”
Vakerics said LaGrange coach Jeff Geeter happened to catch him playing in a tournament in South Carolina while playing for his travel team The Coastal Georgia Soccer Association.
“He approached me after the game and said he was interested in me,” Vakerics said. “We kept in touch and I visited them (LaGrange) a few times.”
Vakerics said the first time he visited the campus, he met up with a few players and they kicked the ball around like a pick-up game. The second time Vakerics met with the players, who organized their own practice session during the off season, he participated in a game scenario practice.
Vakerics said Geeter was then approached by his players who put in a good word on his behalf.
“They talked to him and said I did well,” he said. “I really liked the campus… and all of the players were really nice too.”
At LCHS, Vakerics played midfield, but he hopes to earn the striker position at LaGrange. It’s the position he played on his travel team for the last three years.
“In my club team, I play striker and right wing, and that is where he (Geeter) saw me play, so that is where he is looking to put me,” Vakerics said.
Vakerics said he plans to study psychology and possibly coaching and sports therapy while attending LaGrange.
He said he has his parents’ support, but added his mom, “is not happy that it is five hours away.”
“I’m dealing with that (how far away he will be) but I’m trying to concentrate on his dream and that he is succeeding in what he is trying to accomplish,” his mom said. “I will try and visit him and see some of his games. I looked at the schedule and they have some Saturday games so I will be driving five hours.”
Vakerics spent a month in Norway and three weeks in Spain over the summer, but during that time soccer was still part of his daily routine.
“When I first arrived in Norway, it was for fun but I got a chance to practice with the city’s team and that was a really great experience,” he said. “I practiced almost every day with the team there, so that was really good to help me stay in shape and keep my techniques up. In Spain, there were no teams there, but I still worked out kicking the soccer ball around. Since I’ve been back, I’ve been working out every day and running every day and playing soccer.”
Vakerics played football for LCHS as the Panthers’ kicker for two seasons.
“It (football) was fun while I did it but it’s not as much action as soccer… I like being able to run around and just enjoy myself,” he said.
Vakerics said soccer is just as physical as football, and he has suffered his share of injuries over the years to prove it.
“I’ve hurt my ankle so many times, pulled my groin, (and) people get pulled out of the game because they get hit in the head so many times. It’s really tough,” he said.
In the long run Vakerics would like to play soccer professionally, “but for now I’m just focused on going to LaGrange,” he said. “Maybe if a better opportunity comes I’ll think about it, but right now it’s just about helping out LaGrange and doing the best I can there. I’m definitely going to be able to compete for playing time. The coach said everybody has a chance to play. It’s just based on how they perform.”
LeBron said she is thankful to the LCHS coaching staff and the community who helped guide her son and even see the family through a difficult time in March, 2011, when their home burned to the ground on the same day as the LCHS prom.
“The folks at Liberty County High School, Fort Stewart and the community were so thoughtful and supportive,” she said. “They made sure that Adrien went to the prom, among other things...they were amazing.”
She said it was that type of positive influence and support that have shaped him into the athlete and student he is today.