Justus Hofmann and Darius Smith will take their soccer talents to Brewton-Parker College. The Bradwell Institute Tiger soccer teammates signed their letters of intent Friday in the school’s media center.
Both young men said they plan to study human services while playing for the BPC Barons.
“It’s a great school, and the coach is wonderful,” Smith said. “He is amazing and much like my high school coach, so it is like going into the same environment.”
Hofmann said the size of the campus and it close proximity to home is what drew him to BPC.
“And they were friendly and greeted me in a manner that made me feel accepted,” he said.
BPC soccer coach Matt Payne said he was impressed with the players when they visited the campus and a downpour prevented them from being able to participate in a practice session with the Barons.
“We went into the gym, and we got out the futsal balls,” Payne said explaining that those are smaller versions of soccer balls used for indoor games and weigh a bit more than typical soccer balls.
“It is hard to control and if you go to places like Brazil, players play futsal until they get into their teens … and it is how they develop their technical ability … These two never played futsal, and I’ve got guys that played in South America and grew up playing futsal. … We started a futsal tournament, and these two guys didn’t miss a beat,” Payne said, noting that Hofmann and Smith each scored a goal. “We didn’t get to go out in the field that day, but I saw enough day … instantly and with their technical ability … to be an automatic take for me.”
Payne said he also spoke with Tiger soccer coach Tom Oglesby and was impressed to learn that both players have exceptional work ethic.
“The one thing I can say about Justus and Darius is that they were always putting in the work,” Payne said. “When no one else was working, they were working. When no one else was grinding, they were grinding. And today is one of those days where the hard work pays off.”
Tiger assistant coach Joey Messina said he had given up soccer for a while and didn’t think it would be a part of his life until he teamed up with Oglesby and joined the coaching staff around two years ago.
“These kids on this team have definitely had an impact on my life,” Messina said. “I’m back in soccer now, and that is what I want to do with my future. I am getting out of the military, and I am going to invest fully in soccer and coaching kids because of my experience with this team and the connections I’ve made with these guys, especially these two.”
Assistant coach Lindsey Guyett-Martin said she is proud of the two young men and said she plans to follow their collegiate careers to make sure they stay on top of their grades and offer support when needed.
Tiger Athletic Director Ken Griffin said the two players have taken their first step in being added to the BI Cat Walk, a hallway lined with Tiger athletes who went off to play at the collegiate level and graduated college.