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CHHS senior Shillabeer to play Division I soccer

Anyone that knows Charles Henderson senior Lloyd Shillabeer knows that he loves the game of soccer.

But to the extent that it pains him to watch his team while injured on the sideline, many people may not know.

“I hate watching games,” Shillabeer said. “I love playing and want to be out there so bad – it is really disheartening.”

The midfielder first injured his kicking leg during this past football season, and while he said he is unsure of what the problem is, it has carried over into the soccer season.

Shillabeer sat out the last three months, in preparation for his senior season, however, after only a few games, the pain that he described as “horrible and stiffening in his lower back” returned, forcing him to possibly miss the season, returning as soon as the playoffs.

While it may seem hard to believe, there is still plenty reason for Shillabeer and his family to smile.

Just last week, the Trojan stepped into uncharted territory for soccer players in Pike County and even southern Alabama when he committed to play NCAA Division 1 soccer for the University of Hartford in Connecticut.

With the signing, the Troy native became just the fourth soccer player from Alabama to make the jump to Division 1 and the first to do so in a town south of Birmingham as well as in Pike County.

“I don’t even know where to begin,” Shillabeer said. “It is an unreal opportunity.”

“(Soccer) has always been a huge part of my life – it’s the thing I love to do the most.”

While soccer has been a big part of Shillabeer’s life since he was six, that was not always the case.

The All-State soccer player who was a member of the Alabama Olympic Development Program (ODP) and independently invited to train for a week in Glasgow, Scotland with the St. Mirren FC Youth Academy said growing up, he hated the sport.

“I played baseball back then,” Shillabeer said. “I really didn’t like soccer at all, but my step dad (CHHS head coach Olaf Lieb) got me into it and once I found out that I was good, I started to love it.”

“With soccer, I can go into my own world and do what I like – I can play my style of the game, and that’s something you can’t really do in other sports,” he added.

Playing his style has proven him right thus far.

Along with the already mentioned accomplishments, Shillabeer was also selected as one of the top five soccer players in the state by the ODP to participate in a training exchange with the Monterrey Rayados professional youth academy in Mexico.

“I am very proud of what Lloyd has been able to do,” coach Lieb said.

“He has worked very hard throughout his life, and has earned this opportunity – it has been a joyful journey.

“I think as with many athletes, there are days when they are unsure if this is the path they want to take. But he has made it clear that this is what he wants to do and what he loves,” the coach added.

Even despite all the teams and honors, Shillabeer said he is still frightened about taking the next step in his playing career.

“It’s just such a big jump (from Troy to Connecticut),” he said.

“I think anyone who was doing this would be a little scared.”

“I have talked to my coach though, and he said it was good for me to be nervous. He knows that when I get up there, I am going to work my butt off.”