FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno Pacific senior Anthony Velarde is seen as one of the best players to ever put on a Sunbird uniform. Just ask his coach.
"He's not just a horizontal 'here take the ball' and do your thing type of player. He's vertical. He gets in the box and he creates opportunities," says coach Jaime Ramirez.
At the end of the 2018 season, Velarde was voted a consensus first team all-American - high honors for a player who, coming out of high school, had zero offers to play in college.
"Honestly I didn't have anybody. I didn't have anything. The only reason I came to Fresno Pacific was because my older brother played there," Velarde says.
Velarde played his first two seasons at Fresno Pacific but then redshirted his junior year.
"At every stage I went in the soccer game I had to improve myself little by little and I think that changed me as a player and as a person."
Now he's getting ready for the biggest change of his life.
"It was a process I had to think about. It was completely across from where I'm at."
Anthony paid out of pocket to fly to Pittsburgh for a tryout with the USL team Riverhounds SC.
A week later he was offered a contract to sign with the team.
"I can't say it was shock. I knew someone would want what I can do on the field and I think I just needed the right timing, the right coach to show what I can do."
His coach was proud.
"There are thousands and thousands of kids in this country that would love the opportunity to earn a contract to play professionally. To see that very few make it and for Anthony to be one of them. It's huge for a program."
Velarde wasn't on the radar of college programs - Fresno Pacific wasn't even on his - but after an up-and-down journey through the beautiful game, he's ready to rep the Central Valley as a professional soccer player.
"I was blessed to be at this school where I was made into the player I am now."
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