In remembrance of former Columbus Crew SC head coach Sigi Schmid, former player Frankie Hejduk, who under Schmid won both a national championship at UCLA and an MLS Cup with Columbus, reflected on Schmid's importance in own his life, starting as a young player in San Diego to his role in orchestrating the Crew's 2008 title-winning year, when Hejduk served as captain, which, according to Hejduk, came with some initial hesitation.
"Holding up that Cup with him and him looking down on me a little bit, and we were hugging each other, and him going ‘Hey man, this was all you,’ and I said, ‘This was all you!'" Hejduk said. "And what I meant by that, there was a point that he came to me and said ‘Hey, I want you to be captain,’ and you know, I was Frankie, man; I would show up late sometimes. I would give it all on the field, but off the field, captains were supposed to be on time, captains were supposed to be the guys everyone is looking up to.
"I remember him coming up to me, specifically saying, ‘Frankie, I want you to be captain of this team.’ I said, ‘Sig, are you kidding me? You know me,’ and he goes ‘No, you’re gonna lead.’ I thought, ‘I’m late sometimes,’ and he said ‘Well you’re not going to be late anymore, and you know what you’re going to be? You’re going to be an example on the field and that’s how you’re going to lead. People are going to feed off that energy.’
"He was the one that orchestrated that whole thing because to be honest, I wasn’t ready to be captain, I didn’t think at that time, and he said ‘This is going to work because of this. You’re going to be the reason why we are going to win and you’re going to help this whole team and this organization…win a Cup.’"
In 2008, Schmid's vision became reality.
"He convinced me," Hejduk said. "Straight in the eye, he looked at me and said ‘No, this is going to work because you are going to be the captain and we are going to make this work and this whole team is going to thrive.’ And he was right, so he was definitely part of a higher power and we were blessed to have him in Columbus because in this short time of three years he turned the team around from one of the worst in the League at the time, when he first got there, to winning the Cup within three years."
Of Hejduk's top 10 moments, he said, Sigi was part of two of them, in a list that included having four children and marrying his wife.
"You know, I have four kids, those were four of my greatest moments; marrying my wife, that was fifth, so you can understand where I’m going here, and his influence on my life got me through to where I am at today, to be honest, and he was part of two of those biggest moments," Hejduk said.
Prior to his Columbus days, as a kid growing up in San Diego, one of Hejduk's most important memories of Sigi came via phone call.
"One of [the moments was] the first time I got a call from Sigi...as he was coaching UCLA, and I remember getting a call from him and if you were a California soccer player growing up in the area or in San Diego or almost anywhere in California, and even past that, but especially where I was from in San Diego, UCLA was the thing. So if you got a call from Sigi, it was like ‘whoa, it meant business.’ That was the first moment where I kind of realized, ‘I have potential as a soccer player,’ and he noticed that," Hejduk said.
"That was one of the moments and the other moment was, obviously, winning a Cup with Sigi for Columbus," Hejduk said. "Being part of that – how our past relationship was at UCLA – was awesome. Then to carry that on to the professional level and have him years later be a part of another great moment of my life, one of the top 10."
Those wishing to honor Sigi and the Schmid family are asked to please consider a tax-deductible memorial gift to support the men's soccer program at UCLA, with the funds benefitting a scholarship in Schmid's name. Donations may be directed to UCLA Athletics, Attn: Emily Lerner; UCLA Athletics, P.O. Box 24044, Los Angeles CA, 90024. Emily may also be reached via phone (310-206-3302) or email (email@example.com). Donations can also be submitted online. Please note that your gift is in memory of Sigi Schmid. Checks can be made payable to the UCLA Foundation.