By Aaron Tomich/NPSL.com
A 12-hour bus ride from New Orleans to the state of Texas, on the same day as the match, made for a challenging situation for the entire New Orleans Jesters team.
Beyond the lengthy journey being painful and boring, each player was thrown out of their form and preparation rhythm. Patrick Mullins, a striker at the time for Jesters, remembered that it was the true first time that he had to step up in his mentality as a professional.
“That was a learning moment for all of us and it is something I still pull on today,” said Mullins, who is currently a forward for Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC. “Travel days and imperfect conditions still happen at all levels of soccer, and you just have to go out there and perform.”
Mullins said that on that road trip, he was able to lean on his teammates in order to get set into that focused mentality. When it came time for the match itself, he remembers scoring a goal and helping the squad to a result.
Playing under the supervision of Jesters head coach Kenny Farrell, Mullins learned about and grew quite a lot in the sport he loved.
“Patrick was a superb performer for us not just on the field with his technical ability but in the overall way he approached the game,” said Farrell. “His desire and attitude were always spot on and even as a very young player with us, he was a positive influence on his teammates.”
Sharp and versatile, combined with a natural ability to have strength in finishing are details of Mullin’s approach to the striker position. He said that those elements, combined with a mature ability to visualize success in the games far before first kick, were ways he was able to develop and grow while playing for Jesters during the offseason in his collegiate years.
That success was noticeable, as Mullins was named the MAC Hermann Trophy winner – college soccer’s top player – twice while at the University of Maryland (2012, 2013) along with First Team All-America honors (2012, 2013), to name a few. Following his collegiate career, he was drafted into MLS, and to-date has made 162 regular-season appearances (72 starts), having scored 27 goals and provided 14 assists since the 2014 campaign.
“We were fortunate to have him [Mullins] as a teammate and a key player for several great seasons, and honestly, I am not surprised by what he has achieved in the game so far,” said Farrell. “He is a top player and his many accomplishments speak for themselves.”
Reminiscing on his days back in Louisiana, Mullins noted that some of the most important parts and growing experiences in his career came from the little things. He said that simply seeing the ball hit the back of the net gave him that confidence boost. Each game he played, he said gave him high-quality, competitive minutes. Beyond all that, it was enjoyable to play in his hometown.
“The Jesters have always been special to me,” said Mullins. “It’s a team in my hometown, had a great local community following that made it exciting to go home in the summer and be able to stay sharp with my training. But also, [Jesters] contributed to the soccer community in New Orleans, which had given me so much growing up.”
Knowing the great impact and influence playing in NPSL and for the New Orleans Jesters had on his life and career, Mullins reflected on that time. Thinking back to even his memories of long road trips and the importance of learning the grit of professionalism, the striker said that it is vital for the younger players today to find what they do best.
“Just go out and find the parts of the game that you love and that you’re constantly curious about,” said Mullins. “I think it’s so important when you are always looking to be excited to come to training and being with your teammates. Once you have that building block of desire and joy for the game, so many of those things can and will take you to the places you want to go.”
Photo Credit: Toronto FC/Lucas Kschischang