Frankie Hejduk is Crew SC brand ambassador, even at the MLS Player Combine

Frankie Hejduk - Columbus Crew SC - 2016 adidas MLS Player Combine

LAUDERHILL, Fla. – Imagine you’ve been preparing your entire life for a career, and you have five days to convince a pool of potential employers that you’re right for them.

You get a few chances in an unfamiliar setting to show them how you work, and a gauntlet of meetings with people who already reached the top of your chosen profession to explain why you deserve a shot. After that, it’s out of your hands. You wait, and if you’re one of the lucky ones, you get a shot somewhere, most likely on a provisional basis.

Sounds kind of nerve wracking, right?

That’s what MLS prospects are facing at the 2016 adidas MLS Player Combine in South Florida, strutting their stuff with unfamiliar teammates in three games in front of all 20 clubs and taking a slew of individual interviews with head coaches and GMs.

The interviews can be particularly intimidating for the youngsters, who are thrown into hotel room after hotel room to face a full boat of questions from as many as a half dozen members of a technical staff.

Every club wants players to be comfortable in their interviews, but only one team – Columbus – brought a secret weapon to South Florida: Crew SC legend Frankie Hejduk.

The Columbus brand ambassador, player liaison and outsized personality is at the Combine for the third-straight year. His main objective? Make the interviewees feel at ease while they wait to meet with head coach Gregg Berhalter and the Crew SC staff.

“Frankie can relate to anyone, he’s a very easygoing personality,” Berhalter told on Sunday. “I think he makes them feel comfortable. And then we make them feel uncomfortable.”

Berhalter and assistant coaches Josh Wolff, Pat Onstad, and Sixten Bostrom are meeting with a score of prospects for formal interviews at the Combine. They grill the players on the usual subjects, trying to get to know how they think, how they view the game and how they carry themselves.

Hejduk, who played eight seasons in Columbus and has worked in the club’s front office since 2012, grabs the players before they go into their formal meeting. Like the Crew SC coaching staff, he’s trying to get to know the prospects too, though his conversations, unsurprisingly considering his famously laid back nature, tend to be a little more casual.

“A lot of times the meetings take a little longer than anticipated, so a lot of times guys are sitting in the hall and waiting, and I can kind of educate them,” he said. “I pick their brains on what they think about the league, what they think about the team itself and everything, so it’s cool. But the main thing is just to get to know them on a cool level, just try to make them feel like, ‘Hey dude, just be yourself, be free, because that’s what they want to see.’”

The Southern California native also actively boosts Columbus, easing any doubts some of the more skeptical players may have about the Midwestern city and hyping up the active, exciting style Berhalter has so successfully put on the field.

“We talk about the style of play, what our goals are as a team, and I let them know about the city itself and how it’s an up-and-coming city,” Hejduk said. “I let them know about the fans, the Nordecke [supporters section] and how crazy our fans are there, and just fill them in on how much of a buzz it’s become in the States and in Columbus.

“And I’m sure a lot of these guys have never been to Columbus before, and I’m sure a lot of these guys have maybe different thoughts on Columbus than what it actually is. So for me, as a California guy that is now living in Columbus, I can kind of share that experience and say, ‘Hey man, I’ve had a chance to live both places and I’m living in Columbus and I love it.’ So I can get the West Coast vibe going on there, and let them know ‘OK, there’s a cool West Coast vibe in Columbus, too.’”

It’s a welcome opportunity for Hejduk, and undoubtedly a good chance for the players to relax, breathe and have a laugh with one of the coolest dudes in MLS.

“It’s been great. I love it, it gets me a chance to be close to the team still, and also be on the other side of it too and promote the game.”