When the FC Dallas brass asked Paxton Pomykal what number he wanted after he signed a Homegrown contract with the club earlier this month, the 16-year-old didn’t hesitate.
He knew he wanted to wear No. 19 – and he knew exactly why.
Pomykal wanted to honor former FC Dallas midfielder Bobby Rhine, who tragically passed away in September 2011. No FCD player has worn the No. 19 jersey in a game since August of that year, when defender Zach Loyd wore the shirt. After Rhine, who played 212 games for FCD, unexpectedly died of a heart attack on Sept. 5, Loyd honored Rhine by changing his uniform number to No. 17.
When Pomykal signed on Sept. 8 of this year, he knew he wanted No. 19. The Dallas-area native grew up watching Rhine play for FCD, and wanted to honor the former fan favorite by wearing his number.
“I realized 19 was open and I knew why,” Pomykal said in an interview on FCDallas.com. “It was obviously not retired, but it was in Bobby’s name. I love his legacy. He’s a legend here, and growing up I watched him a lot because I was always at the games as a kid. I play like him because he always had a really good mentality. He always worked hard and played for the team, and that’s someone who I look up to as a player and try to model my game as.”
Pomykal made his request to FCD assistant technical director Luiz Muzzi, who took the request to head coach Oscar Pareja and Dallas president Dan Hunt. From there, an even bigger idea was born.
Before giving Pomykal the No. 19, Hunt first went to get permission from Rhine’s widow, Bevan. He asked her how she felt about Pomykal wearing No. 19, telling her that if she didn’t want anyone to wear the number, he’d retire it permanently.
“I went to Bevan and said that we had a young man who came up through our academy who signed a contract here,” Hunt said. “He’s a terrific player on the field and wants to wear No. 19. [I told her], 'I’m going to leave this solely up to you. If you tell me you never want No. 19 to ever be worn again, then no player will ever wear it again.' She said, ‘I have to be honest, I think it would be a great way to honor Bobby’s legacy,’ and I agreed with that.”
“The decision became an easy one once I learned a little bit more about Paxton – who he is a player on and off the field, and how he grew up watching Bobby play,” added Rhine. “When Paxton called me to let us know what the jersey means to him, it confirmed that he is deserving of No. 19.”
Rhine and her sons, Jake and Miller, handed the No. 19 jersey to Pomykal after training on Thursday at Toyota Stadium. By passing over the jersey, they started a new FC Dallas tradition. From now on, the only players who will wear No. 19 for FC Dallas will be players from the club’s academy who represent the values of Bobby Rhine and his commitment to the club.
Additionally, $5 from every custom No. 19 jersey sold in the FC Dallas team store will be donated to the FC Dallas Foundation in memory of Rhine. The foundation has raised more than $30,000 in Rhine’s name to promote good heart health for the American Heart Association.
“Paxton understands that in addition to contributing to the team on the field, it is equally important to be a good teammate when there is not a stadium full of people watching you,” said Rhine. “He is a gifted soccer player, but very humble. He works incredibly hard to continue to improve himself as a student and as a player. And like Bobby, he is instantly likeable. I know that Bobby would be flattered and fully supportive of passing on the No. 19 to Paxton.”
“You’re little and think, ‘Wow, he’s number 19; I want to be the next one.’ It will build a story for the academy and just make the legacy stronger,” added Pomykal. “If it’s retired, maybe you don’t remember it as much as if we build a legacy and then the next one and the next one. It will be tagged as Bobby Rhine’s number and I think that’s brilliant.”