lucan yates signing

Benjamin Russell’s Lucan Yates, seated center, signs to play soccer at Truett McConnell University on Thursday afternoon. At his signing, Yates was joined by, front row, from left, brother Maddux Yates, mother Autumn Yates, father Bryanlee Yates; back row, Benjamin Russell athletic director Pam Robinson, BRHS soccer coach Austin Teel and BRHS assistant principal Tracy McGhee.

Uniqueness surrounded Benjamin Russell’s Lucan Yates on Thursday afternoon.

Not only did Yates overcome the coronavirus pandemic to still accomplish his dream of playing soccer at the collegiate level, he was also one of the first BRHS boys soccer players in recent memory to sign with the next level.

“As a coach, this is actually my first athlete to ever sign, so I’m very, very ecstatic for him,” Wildcat coach Austin Teel said. “It just shows what he put into the program and what he did and hopefully that’s a building block for players. They can say, ‘I can come to Benjamin Russell and I can play soccer and if I want to play at the next level, I can have that opportunity.’”

Thursday amongst a small group of family and Wildcat representatives, Yates signed to play soccer at Truett McConnell University, an NAIA program in Cleveland, Georgia. Although Yates’ recruiting journey was cut short due to COVID-19, he still feels confident he’s found the right place.

“When I went there, it was just a really nice school,” Yates said. “I got to meet the players and they were all cool; I liked the coaches and I liked the area. It was just a good area. It felt like home.”

Yates’ recruiting journey really started with his club team, which played at a tournament at Disney with ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in December 2019. After that, coaches started getting in touch with Yates. He had visits to Florida Southern, TMU and South Carolina at Union.

“Then COVID came,” Yates said. “I was supposed to go on a few more visits I never got to, so I feel like it really affected that but I think I still would’ve (made the same choice).

Since arriving at Benjamin Russell, Yates has been an integral part of the boys soccer team. He became a starter on varsity when he was just a freshman and he’s worked his way up the ranks to becoming most of the most reliable players and a leader both on and off the field.

Teel is hoping Yates can be a role model for players coming up to show the work really starts when a player is young.

Another big factor in the impressiveness of Yates’ signing is just how difficult it is to play collegiate soccer.

“Just here locally and in the state of Alabama, there’s not many universities that even have soccer,” Teel said. “But the thing in soccer a lot of people don’t realize is you’re competing not just nationwide but you’re competing internationally for spots. That’s what’s such a huge accomplishment about it that he can and did that.”

Obviously there’s going to be a lot of differences between high school and college soccer. Yates expects it’s going to be a lot faster and against much tougher competition, but he’s ready for the challenge and Teel thinks Yates is definitely up for it.

“Of course it’s a very big transition from high school to college soccer because school’s there and it’s also going to be 24/7 with soccer,” Teel said. “But I think once he gets settled in, he’s going to show what he’s really got and that’s what I’m really looking forward to.”

But those challenges will come and for now, Yates just wants to soak in the moment.

“I’ve always dreamed about getting to the next level and I’m excited I finally got to accomplish that, so it feels really good,” he said.

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.