Otis Earle’s bio on the UC Riverside athletics site is an exercise in understatement.
The Highlanders left back’s 2014 season is summed up with an ellipsis, as is his high school career. His “Personal” section is almost entirely bare, except for two sentences.
“Otis J. Earle is the son of Robert and Sandra Earle. His father played soccer professionally in the English Premiere (sic) League.”
Robert is, of course, none other than NBC broadcaster Robbie Earle, who played 18 seasons in the English top flight and went to the World Cup with Jamaica.
That’s quite some pedigree to gloss over.
It’s oddly fitting. Otis Earle was a comparative unknown to anyone outside of the Big West Conference up until this past season, when his star rose so swiftly that he is now considered by many to be the top prospect at his position in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft.
“I was getting a little bit of attention my junior year,” Earle told MLSsoccer.com. “Obviously nowhere near this scale, [but coming into senior year], obviously people are like, ‘OK, this guy’s going to be available to get drafted,’ and then it kind of just went from there.”
In fact, Earle says he was about 7 years old when he first realized that he might be, objectively, a good soccer player. Not that his dad would ever let him know.
“He was completely quiet until I got into the car,” Earle says of the times his father came to watch him play. “If I played well, then I always knew that it would be completely silent in the car. We’d be talking about something else or the radio would be playing. But if I didn’t play too well, then…
“But at the end of the day I preferred that,” Earle continued quickly. “Because now when I get shouted at by a coach – I know some kids kind of hide away from that – but now I can take it, and that probably enables me to be the player I am today.”
As much as his father’s career might have fostered Earle’s development as a player, his dynamism as an attacker is a residual effect of his time as a left winger, the position he played in his first year at Riverside before switching to left back the next season.
Earle admits that he wasn’t thrilled about being moved to the backline – “I mean, no winger wants to go and play left back,” he says – but over time has embraced the position.
And why not? The move has paid off with a professional contract – Earle, who has a US green card, officially signed with Major League Soccer earlier this month – and after an impressive showing at the Combine this past week in Lauderhill, Fla., will likely culminate with an early selection in the first round of the SuperDraft on Thursday.
It’s exactly where he wants to be.
“I still feel like I’m on vacation when I’m here,” Earle says. “I don’t feel like I’ve lived here for long enough to call it, like, home home. I still feel like I’m enjoying it as a new country. And it’s such a big country. Europe, in terms of the continent, is almost the same scale as the US as a country. So many cities and places in this country that I haven’t even experienced yet, which I would still like to.”