By Jeremy Stafford - email@example.com
QUICKSBURG -- It was the simplest series of motions, and required the basest of motor skills -- just a few quick flicks of the wrist.
But when Patrick Bain finally laid down his pen, the ink from it quickly soaking into his letter of intent from Longwood University, the Stonewall Jackson senior wrought a telling smile.
Twirling his name onto paper is trivial; committing to play soccer at the NCAA Division I level, on scholarship, is not.
"I've been waiting for a long time just to play college soccer in general," Bain said. "But the actual signing, just to get it all over with, it's a big weight off of my shoulders."
And Bain's smile never faded. How could it? Surrounded by the very cast of players that carried him through the last four years, and will surely be there through the next four years, Bain's signing with Longwood marked the pinnacle of a host of efforts.
There were his springtime teammates, Colton Koontz, Hayden Miller, Dallas Foltz, Dylan Dawson and Jose Garcia, sitting on the front row in the stadium-seated classroom, slurping down Juicy Juice and offering their youthful support.
To Bain's immediate left sat Generals coach Nate Hissong, who has watched Bain grow over the last eight years from a tiny talent to a Group A second-team all-state selection, solidifying him as "the face of Stonewall soccer."
Further down to Bain's left sat Stonewall Jackson athletic director Todd Fannin and principal Mike Dorman, both of whom oversaw Bain's spectacular display of talent on the pitch and off it.
"It's very special when a single-A school has a D-I athlete," Fannin said. "And when you have the character this young man has to accompany this skill he has, that makes it all the more special for Stonewall Jackson."
And finally there were Bain's parents -- Will, his father, and Hope, his mother -- to his right, who time and again drove Bain to Roanoke, where he played club soccer for the Roanoke Star, the top-ranked team in the state of Virginia an off-season ago.
"They should be commended, too, I think, for their investment in his future," Hissong said of Bain's parents. "Soccer especially, you have to market yourself. And in this area you gotta play at the higher-level tournaments and you gotta play with the bigger clubs than we have, and he's done that with his commitment to Roanoke and the Roanoke Star.
"So they made a great financial commitment on his behalf, too."
Playing with the Star, Bain found more competition than is readily available at the high school level. In the summer of 2004, Bain and the Star traveled to Finland and Sweden, where they played against top international teams and saw esteemed success. Roanoke lost in the quarterfinals of the Finnish tournament on penalty kicks and was eliminated midway through the Swedish tournament, which Bain said was a much larger, more talent-laden tournament.
But with the days of the Star behind him and his career at Longwood still months ahead of him, Bain said his primary focus is to take the red and black of Stonewall Jackson as far as he can. An off-season removed from an appearance in the Group A state semifinal round at Radford University, Hissong and the Generals return all but one starter.
This spring, though, Stonewall Jackson will boast a midfielder it couldn't boast of last season: Patrick Bain, Division I athlete.
Bain said that he began taking a serious interest in Longwood during his junior year. Though initially he wanted to attend a large D-I school, Bain said Longwood was an alluring choice because it offered him a chance to see early playing time against Virginia's premiere teams. This past fall, Longwood traveled to the University of Virginia, which went on to win the NCAA national championship over then top-ranked Akron.
At Longwood, Bain said he'll likely play as an outside back, a position he filled with the Star. The senior is a center midfielder under Hissong, and last season his 25 assists set the Stonewall Jackson single-season record.
And though the career assists record is well within Bain's sight -- Hissong said the midfielder is set to "shatter the assists record" -- Bain's eyes are honed fully on guiding the Generals back to Radford in his final hurrah as a General.
"I wanted to sign early -- I kinda wanted to get it done and I wanted to be able to focus on my high school career," Bain said. "So, although Longwood's really important for me, I do know what I need to do to progress there and what I need to do before I get there as far as working hard -- Stonewall soccer is what I'm doing now.
"Whatever is right in front of me is the most important."