Out of the thousands of Michigan high school boys who played soccer last fall, only 30 have signed letters of intent to continue their careers at a Division I college—and three of them are from , where the trio are great friends.
Nick Schroeder, Grant Chong and Taylor Mazurek all have committed to play collegiate soccer. Schroeder signed at the University of Evansville in Indiana, Chong at Syracuse University in New York and Mazurek at the University of Michigan.
Schroeder and Mazurek have known each other since they were 5. They all became acquainted at 10, and they finally joined forces their sophomore year at Brighton.
All three of them were All-State, All-Region, All-District, All-Conference and All-County players their senior year, the same season they made a deep run into the state playoffs. They were finally eliminated from the tournament by the No. 1 team in the state—East Kentwood—in the regional semifinals. Each of them has also been chosen to be a captain on the team.
Combined, however, the trio will be more than 1,000 miles apart next fall.
“We’ll all stay in touch. We will be contacting each other a lot,” Chong said.
Schroeder conveyed the same message.
“We’ll see each other for sure. Whether it’s on Christmas break or playing a pickup game over the summer,” Schroeder said. “I mean, we all have each others' cell phone numbers,” he added jokingly.
In the modern era of communication, it doesn’t seem as if their triangle of separation will keep them a part.
They will be playing, too, in three different conferences—Chong in the Big East, Mazurek in the Big Ten and Schroeder in the Missouri Valley Conference.
However, Michigan and Evansville did meet last season in the Shindigz Soccer Festival in Indiana, playing to a 1-1 draw.
Chong made his name at Brighton playing forward for the Bulldogs. He had 42 goals and 33 assists for a total of 117 points, including 11 game-winning goals. Mazurek played midfielder and ended his prep campaign with 19 goals, 25 assists and three game-winning goals. Schroeder also played midfielder but added the role of defender to his resume. He had 12 goals and 14 assists as a Bulldog.
Schroeder was first noticed by Evansville as a junior at the Adidas Blue Chip Showcase Tournament in Cincinnati.
“We first saw Nick play last spring. We’ve been following him since the middle of his junior season,” Evansville Aces head coach Mike Jacobs said. “He’s got a unique skill set, to be so athletic for someone his height. He moves well and has good balance.”
Schroeder is the leading scorer on the Brighton boys basketball team and is also its tallest player.
Mazurek made his decision in mid-October.
“All the talking between schools started for me in September of my junior year,” Mazurek said. “I was contacted by Oakland University, Michigan State University and Michigan. It was a long process. I went on a lot of visits. It’s a lot harder to make a decision that it sounds, but I’m happy with mine.”
Despite their success as Bulldogs, they don’t expect their time at the prep level to completely prepare them for the challenges they’ll face in college.
“High school soccer doesn’t really translate to college soccer like club does,” Schroeder added. “High school brings the more physical aspect to the game like college, though.”
Chong and Schroeder currently play for the Michigan Wolves Academy team out of Livonia. During Schroeder’s sophomore year, the team was ranked among the top 10 in the U.S. Mazurek’s club team is about 144 miles west—or a 2 1/2-hour trip down Interstate 96—in Grand Rapids, where he plays for the Grand Rapids Crew. The Crew won the Michigan State Cup and advanced to national tournament while Mazurek was a member.
“A lot of people tell me I’m crazy because I drive to Grand Rapids twice a week for practice,” Mazurek said. “Most of the good teams in the state are on the east side, and everyone goes there. Most travel west to east. I’m like the only person that goes from east to west. But they’re a good team, and I really like it there.”
All three hope their time with a club team leads to bright futures.
“Everyone in college is big, fast and strong. Club gets you prepared for the technical side of it,” Mazurek added. “The speed of play is a lot faster than high school. Playing for a club helps you get ready for the quick speed.”
Syracuse head coach Ian McIntyre is excited to have Chong coming aboard as a member of the Orange.
“Grant is a soccer fanatic with a real passion for the game. He possesses a true willingness to commit to the necessary work required to be successful here at Syracuse,” McIntyre said. “He is a smart player who we feel will be able to adapt to the more physical demands of the college game. We are excited to watch Grant develop within our training environment here at Syracuse.”