An Ahwatukee Foothills native’s life-long love for soccer skyrocketed to professional heights last August, when he became the first amateur player to sign a professional contract from Premier Development League club FC Tucson.
Resident Reid Schmitt, 25, whose versatility allows him to play anything from defense to offense, now plays midfielder for Phoenix FC.
“It was a dream come true,” Schmitt said. “It was a huge stepping-stone in my life.”
Schmitt said it was a great feeling going from playing semi-professional soccer to professional soccer, where more than 4,000 fans in a sold out venue truly respect what he does.
Schmitt, who is the middle of three sons, was born and raised in Ahwatukee.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better place to grow up,” he said. “I like the different mix of people that Arizona brings. It’s literally a melting pot for different cultures.”
Schmitt started playing soccer when he was about 4 years old and continued to play throughout elementary, middle and high school.
“I’m a very athletic kid. I’ve played pretty much every sport at a club level because I love sports in general,” he said. “I got into (soccer) because I knew I was good at it.”
He said his older brother got really into the sport so Schmitt naturally followed in his footsteps.
Andrew Schmitt, 28, said as kids they would always play against each other in their backyard.
“Reid was always a very active kid. He would always want to be playing,” he said. “As his older brother I would always beat him, but now he’s the one that can beat me.”
The two were able to play together at Desert Vista High School when Schmitt was a freshman and Andrew was a senior.
Schmitt won two back-to-back championships during his last two years of high school. He scored the game-winning goal his junior year and in his senior year he had the assist to the game winner.
Patrick O’Neil, 25, a longtime friend of Schmitt’s, said they became really close while at Desert Vista together.
“Reid’s the same as he was in high school,” O’Neil said. “He’s a really funny, laid-back kind of guy, and he’s really friendly and outgoing.”
Schmitt graduated in 2006 and then went to Mesa Community College for two years where he also played soccer.
In 2008, he transferred to Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, where he majored in business and minored in sports and fitness management.
While playing for Midwestern State, Schmitt began to form a frustration toward soccer and the politics that came along with it.
As a result, he decided to move back to Arizona after he graduated in 2011 and hoped to use his degree to get a “big-boy” job.
Schmitt said he stopped playing soccer for almost a year after he moved back to his hometown.
“At the end of the year I picked up men’s league and played well enough to realize I should have never given it up,” he said.
A former high school coach had told Schmitt that there was a semi-pro team moving to Tucson and suggested he try out for it. One week later, Schmitt went down to the tryouts and made the team.
“I worked really hard and got in shape and became their key player last year,” he said. “It was tough to do the transition, but it was all mental and it was all for you so you had to push yourself.”
Schmitt said he is most influenced by his father who was a professional racquetball player for 15 years.
“He always gave me that passion to keep going with sports and everything,” Schmitt said. “That’s finally how I got to where I am right now, because of my dad.”
One thing that is apparent to anyone who has seen Schmitt play is that he is an extremely driven individual.
O’Neil said Schmitt has a true love for the sport and that it’s obvious that he wants to make it to the next level of professional soccer.
“I’m just shocked at where he’s gotten in the past year,” O’Neil said. “He just has a drive that I haven’t seen in anybody in a very long time.”
Schmitt said one of his biggest hobbies is maintaining a healthy lifestyle, with everything from shopping healthy to cooking to working out.
“His biggest motivation is to move to the next level. You can see his dedication in his transition from college to semi-pro in Tucson and now pro for Phoenix,” Andrew said.
Schmitt said his ultimate goal is to end up playing Major League Soccer and continuing to play soccer for as long as he is able. Meanwhile, Schmitt said he would be happy making it another year in USL.
“I can tell my kids I was a professional athlete in soccer.”
• Chantelle Patel is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.