Things feel “more real now” for Nick Hagglund than they did when his boyhood dreams came true in mid-January.
On Jan. 16, Hagglund, a Lakota West grad who starred on the soccer pitch for Xavier University, was selected 10th overall by Toronto FC in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft.
Since then, life has been a series of cross-country flights, meet-and-greets and intense training at the club’s preseason facility in Bradenton, Fla. He also had to find time to move out of his family home in West Chester to begin his new career.
"It’s settling in now that I’m in Toronto. I was putzing around in my parents house, I was like, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m supposed to be playing professional soccer and I’m sitting in my mom’s house right now."
That's what he told a documentary film crew during those first first few days and weeks with his new club and employer.
Hagglund and his team are featured in a TV series called “All for One.” The documentary-style Canadian television show gives a behind-the-scenes look at the happenings of the team, both on and off the pitch.
It’s shot in a similar fashion to the HBO program “Hard Knocks,” which featured the Cincinnati Bengals for the second time last preseason.
“All For One” introduces fans to coach Ryan Nelsen and a few of his new teammates, like Team USA member Michael Bradley.
But the second episode of the season features Hagglund.
For the first five minutes of "Roll It Out," the 21-year-old recounts everything from all the congratulations he received after being drafted to his first few days as a professional athlete in the Great White North.
“They said, ‘bring your passport, matter of fact.’ I was like, ‘What should I wear?’ They told me to wear whatever I’d like,” he laughed. “So I was like, I’m putting jeans on because it’s freezing.”
It also highlights what was going through the mind of general manager Tim Bezbathchenko and staff when they decided to trade up five spots to select Hagglund who was projected as late first-round pick coming into the trade. Part of the reason was the team was desperately in need of a strong, athletic center back.
“Speaking to his agent at the time, we knew there was a chance he’d likely go late first round, early second, but as the draft was going on we looked at the clubs that knew a lot about Nick and there were a couple clubs ahead of us who (we though) would take him,” Bezbathchenko said of the decision.
“We wanted to just be certain. We paid a little bit to just be certain – and it paid off."
The move from life in suburban Cincinnati and a mid-major college soccer program to an MLS club is proving to be quite the culture shock, especially as it relates to dealing with the media.
“It has been crazy, with all the interviews – they didn’t stop. I was like, “Oh, this is going to calm down after a while and … it didn’t. At all.”
It didn’t take him quite as long to figure out the fans, though.
During the episode, Hagglund writes his name and his No. 17 jersey number on a soccer ball for “Mickey” – one of the many children out there who will soon have their new favorite player’s poster on their wall.
“It just feels more real now. When I get with the guys on the team it will be better,” he said.
Hagglund was thrust into professional life less than a week after the draft.
“We leave (Jan. 23), fly to Toronto and three we fly to Florida three days later,” he said of his whirlwind journey as his team prepares for their season-opener on March 15, a road game against the Seattle Sounders.
Since then, he’s made a handful of starts in the preseason and has his eyes on a starting spot this season.
In one preseason interview posted on YouTube by Toronto FC , Hagglund expressed his amazement at the speed of the game at the professional ranks. He also voiced that while he was a top-10 draft pick, he is willing to wait his turn to get his chance on the pitch if it's in his new club's best interest.
"I love winning and I hate losing – I think I hate losing more than I love winning," he said in the post-practice interview. "I may not get in this year, but I'm going to continue to push the team and make sure that I'm getting better every day... If there comes a time that I'm called on to step in, I'm going to be the best I can be."
To find out if he's in the starting lineup on March 15 you’ll have to tune in to watch .
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