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West York High grad, Millersville standout reflects on journey to pro soccer career

ROB ROSE
717-505-5418/@robrosesports
Darian McCauley dives to make a save during a Charleston Battery practice. The West York High graduate and Millersville standout signed a contract with the USL Championship squad in February.
  • Darian McCauley signed with the Charleston Battery in the USL.
  • McCauley earned a sponsorship from soccer glove brand Renegade GK.
  • The Millersville senior earned the university's Male Career Achievement Award.

For the first two months of this year, Darian McCauley’s life consisted of nonstop traveling and soccer.

The West York High School graduate and Millersville University senior attended a Pro Soccer Consulting tryout in Harrisburg in January. A week later, he was on a plane bound for South Carolina and a trial with a United Soccer League Championship team, the Charleston Battery.

After he impressed in practices, McCauley earned himself a spot on the preseason roster and spent a week in Florida showcasing his abilities in the hopes of earning a contract early in February.

Following some successful showings during the preseason, McCauley got the offer he hoped for — a contract with the Battery. Now he had two days to head back home and collect all the things he needed to prepare for the season. When he got back, it was time for the first season of his pro career to begin and for all the hard work to finally pay off.

Then the whole sports world stopped because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was kind of a weird feeling,” McCauley said. “You want to get out and prove yourself and you just want to get out on the field every day. We’re doing what we love out there and for it to go on pause for the moment was a weird adjustment to make.” 

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Chance to reflect: The time without the ability to step on the field has allowed the goalkeeper to reflect on the wild journey that saw him go from college senior to professional soccer player in less than two months. No moment drove home the feeling that he had reached the place he had always dreamed of being more than the Battery's preseason trip. 

The games were hosted by new Major League Soccer club Inter Miami, owned by soccer legend David Beckham. Charleston played the host team along with Minnesota United, another MLS squad. When McCauley saw some of the goalies on the field that he had studied to improve his own game, he was motivated to perform well against players he admired from afar even a season ago.

“It kind of set in while I’m watching these guys play and playing on the same field as them, ‘Wow I was watching you guys on ESPN last year,’” McCauley said. “It kind of helped in a way because it was like, ‘OK, I’m on the field with these guys I have to show out as well.’”

Keeping himself busy: In addition to trying to stick to the normal schedule he kept before the pandemic, McCauley said he has adopted some practices to help him mentally. He has got into doing yoga as part of the team’s regular 10 a.m. Zoom workout sessions and started to keep a daily journal. He enters what he did well and needs to work on after training to help with the pressure that comes with a pro contract.

McCauley hasn’t taken the downtime off the pitch to be lazy. He had already transitioned to online courses after joining Charleston, but is taking courses with plans to graduate by December, if not earlier.

Off-field honors: He also reached out to Renegade GK, a goalkeeper glove company that lists itself as the No. 1 glove brand on Amazon, and secured a sponsorship deal. Renegade GK also sponsors a number of professional goalies.

While coming back home from training, McCauley noticed he had a voicemail from the Millersville athletic department. When he listened to the message, he was shocked at what he discovered. The message informed him of the canceled banquet where he would have been given the university’s Male Career Achievement Award — one of the highest athletic honors offered by the university.

West York High School graduate earns major athletic honor from Millersville University

“It caught me off guard a bit,” McCauley said. “Looking back at it, I had a pretty decent career at Millersville, but I really was not expecting to get that award by any means at all. So I was pretty excited and grateful for the experiences and opportunities I got at Millersville.” 

While at Millersville, he played in 75 career matches for the men’s soccer program. The 6-foot-3, 197-pounder compiled the second-most wins (42) in program history while blanking opponents a school-record 24 times.

The Millersville men's soccer program has won three Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championships in its 60 seasons. Two of them were won with McCauley in goal, including in 2019. McCauley made 10 saves in two PSAC Tournament games this past season and was named the tournament MVP. He finished fourth in PSAC in average goals against (1.111).

As the entire sports world has been put on pause, it’s given McCauley a chance to stop and appreciate the spot he finds himself in. With the time he has to prepare for his future, McCauley is both motivated and humbled by the rapid process that allowed him to live out his dream, even if it’s been delayed at the start.

“It kind of keeps me grounded as well,” McCauley said. “I’m in a very great situation, where I worked extremely hard to get where I’m at today and that’s something I don’t ever want to take for granted. I get to wake up every single morning and get to go out on the pitch and be like, ‘Wow, I get to play soccer as my job.’”

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.