For a player that once spent a red-card suspension with supporters in the Crew Stadium tailgate lots, perhaps it’s fitting that fans voted defender Frankie Hejduk to be the latest inductee to enter the Black & Gold’s Circle of Honor. But for all the energy Hejduk put into his relationship with fans, it was exceeded on the field as the Crew Captain led the club to three trophies from 2003-10.
Hejduk was one of five final candidates for induction in 2014, along with Mike Clark, Brian Maisonneuve, Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Robert Warzycha. He joins Brian McBride as the only two members of the Circle of Honor.
“With the names that were also around [and eligible for induction], all of those guys are my friends and deserve to be in [the Circle of Honor],” a humbled Hejduk said. “To be next to McBride – to have your name in the stadium forever – it’s a huge honor for me.”
He continued: “To have the fan support, it obviously means a lot to me because they've been behind me for whatever I've done whether it be on the playing field or now in this role in the front office. This fanbase and this city has really been behind me, for me personally, it's an honor. To be not only these guys' friends – but I consider a lot of the fans family as well.”
Of the times Hejduk recalls most fondly, many of the memories occurred during the Crew’s run to the 2008 Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup. It was then that Hejduk feels the club and its fans became one.
“A lot of [favorite memories] revolve around that '08 year, because it was such a magical year and that's where I really, truly felt the fans became family,” the former Captain said.
Since retiring in 2012 following one season with the LA Galaxy, Hejduk has served as the Black & Gold’s Brand Ambassador. In his new role, the charismatic former U.S. Men’s National Team stalwart has continued to strengthen the club’s relationship with fans in Central Ohio and helped grow the sport of soccer in the region.
“We have a huge soccer community [in Columbus],” he explains. “It's growing and people are getting more into it and more into it. I've come here to pump up the sport and get it going. Everyone is buying in and everyone is loving it and feeling the emotions of soccer. For me, it's been incredible to see to see how quickly it's growing and how quickly.”
Added Hejduk: “You always hear 'You've got to love what you're doing.' I honestly do. This role here and the role I had when I played, I loved it, man. That's half the battle: loving what you're doing for a living. These people have made me love what I do.”
Hejduk is set to be inducted into the Crew Circle of Honor at halftime of the Black & Gold’s match on September 20 against the New England Revolution.