FCD pick Hollingshead puts pro career on hold – for now
When Ryan Hollingshead's name was called out last week in Indianapolis — the No. 20 overall pick by FC Dallas at the 2013 SuperDraft — he wasn't in the Indiana Convention Center to give his draft speech.
He wasn't even in the country.
The reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year with UCLA was in Haiti with his fiancee on a previously scheduled, month-long mission trip to work at a Port-au-Prince Christian orphanage called Child Hope International.
His fiancée and former UCLA women's soccer player, Taylor Cochrane, recently served at the orphanage for four months and it was a life-changing experience she wanted to share with Hollingshead.
But which pro soccer prospect schedules a mission trip to Haiti in the middle of January, the peak season for the MLS Combine, the MLS SuperDraft and the open of MLS training camps? A pro soccer prospect who isn't planning on turning pro just yet.
"We decided through a lot of prayer and figuring out what to do, we decided we're not going to play pro and we're going to move to Sacramento and help my brother plant a church," Hollingshead told MLSsoccer.com before his trip to Haiti and prior to the 2013 SuperDraft.
It wasn't an easy decision, especially when he realized during his senior season that he would have a chance to become a professional player. Hollingshead says it took months of discussion with family and friends, including teammates at UCLA.
"It went back and forth every week," he said. "And some weeks I was sure I was going to help my brother and some weeks I was sure I was going to go pro. And it bounced around for a month or so [after the 2012 college season]. I decided that I would miss not being part of the church more than I would miss not playing soccer.
"Everything I was hearing from people is, 'That means you're not excited about soccer.' But that's not true," Hollingshead said. "It has nothing to do with not wanting to play soccer or my love for the game. It's just wanting something a little bit more. It's like saying, 'Do you want a billion or a billion-and-a-half dollars? I'd love both of those things, but a billion-and-a-half is just a little bit better."
The new church in Sacramento will be called the Harvest Bible Chapel, the latest addition to the "church plants" for Harvest Bible, a non-denominational Christian church which started in Elgin, Ill. Hollingshead's 26-year-old brother Scott, who also played soccer at UCLA, will be leading the charge after serving as pastor for the past three years at a small church which recently folded.
Hollingshead's immediate goal is to find work in Sacramento to help pay the bills — preferably in the soccer industry — while helping the church slowly grow and raise enough funds to staff up and perhaps hire him as a full-time pastor. The first four to five months will be spent building the church's core membership before the first official service projected for June or July.
But the beginning of a new church will not mean the end of the soccer dream for Hollingshead, a player who manned every single field position, except goalkeeper, for UCLA. In fact, before the SuperDraft he was told by three MLS coaches that they respected his decision not to turn pro, and that they would draft him anyway.
WATCH: Hollingshead's Highlight Reel
"When coaches told me that, it opened the door for me to come back," Hollingshead said about a potential return. "That makes it a lot easier a decision to make when you think you're not turning this down altogether. If I regret it in six months, I can call up a coach and say 'I'm ready to play' and get a tryout.
"It might take me a month or two months," continued Hollingshead. "But I guarantee that after playing a little bit, I'll get it back."
So FC Dallas fans can still hold out hope they may one day see one of the top midfielders in the college game playing in Frisco. But for now, Sacramento is calling.
"To be honest, if the church planted in an MLS city, I would absolutely want to play pro," Hollingshead said. "It has nothing to do with my love for soccer and how much I enjoy the game. It has to do with the fact that I would rather be in Sacramento. They are two of my favorite things, but planting the church is greater in my desire."