As Abraham Arevalo was being dropped off at Tulsa Airport to catch a flight home, he received the best news possible from Oklahoma Wesleyan University men’s assistant soccer coach Stevan Djukic.
“We want you to come back and we will offer you a scholarship,” said Djukic, who along with the rest of the coaching staff had evaluated Arevalo and several other recruits the day or two before during a tryout camp/scrimmage.
“When he told me that, it was an out of body experience,” Arevalo said. “I stood there and almost cried. I asked him if he was serious and he said yes. He looked at me and knew I was in shock, so he said to bring it in and gave me a hug. I managed to hold it together when he was there, but when I was sitting in the airport, a few tears came out when I called my mom and told my friends. I let all of my emotions out—I had to.”
Arevalo has always been confident about his game; however, playing against bigger and stronger college players definitely humbled him for the better.
“I flew out over spring break for the tryout, which was three hours,” said Arevalo, who earned a spot on the all-Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division First Team this past season. “It was crazy—a bunch of talented players I had never played with before. They had some Serbians who were phenomenally good. I was in shock and thinking, ‘Dang, these guys really take it serious and don’t like to mess around.’ I knew this was an environment where I could learn and become a better player.”
Arevalo’s decision to play soccer at Oklahoma Wesleyan represents a milestone moment on a number of different levels. For one, it was a dream come true, as Arevalo set a goal to play at a higher level ever since he started playing the game.
More important, Arevalo is the first one from his family who will attend college. His parents, Jose and Rocio, encouraged him to go the college route even when there was a time Arevalo wanted to work out of high school.
“Wanting to be the first generation in my family to go to college motivated me to get my grades up,” said Arevalo, who is believed to be just the second player from the San Benito High boys soccer team in the last 10 years to earn a scholarship to play straight out of high school.
Arevalo joins a strong program that went 22-1-2 overall and 11-0-0 in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference last year en route to a semifinal appearance in the NAIA Tournament. The college has an enrollment of 700—nearly five times smaller than the student body at San Benito High.
Oklahoma Wesleyan is a nationally recognized Christian university in Bartlesville, which is about a 45-minute drive from Tulsa. Although Arevalo knows he’s going to get homesick—going to Oklahoma over spring break was the first time he’s been out of state other than Mexico—he is preparing for the mental grind of playing college soccer and being sound academically.
“It’s going to be really hard moving away from family because I’m used to being with them everyday,” he said. “Being homesick is something I’ll have to deal with.”
The way Arevalo earned his way to play for a four-year school is a story unto itself. One day during his sports medicine class, a speaker talked about college and gave the class a website for information. After perusing through the site, Arevalo landed on the web page of the Next College Student Athlete (NCSA), where he filled out some general information. Turns out the NCSA is a for-profit organization that connects middle school and high school student-athletes with college coaches.
Arevalo periodically uploaded videos to the site, and the NCSA did all of the editing and turned his videos into an attractive highlight-reel package. Hundreds of college coaches on the website had access to Arevalo’s video, which is how Oklahoma Wesleyan discovered Arevalo.
After several conversations, Oklahoma Wesleyan invited Arevalo for an official visit. After the scrimmage, Arevalo felt like he had comported himself relatively well considering he was going up against older, more seasoned players.
However, when Arevalo didn’t receive his player evaluation later that night, he started to get anxious.
“They said they would send us the evaluation forms, but the evaluation never came,” he said. “When that happened, I got worried and start thinking in my head that I wasn’t good enough or didn’t do enough to earn a spot. The players are unbelievably good, and that is the level I’m reaching for. I know it’ll take a lot of hard work, which I will do. There is always room for me to improve—that is what I tell myself everyday.”