LAFAYETTE, La. (KPEL News) - Another local soccer athlete is headed to Europe to train with the pros, and it's putting one Lafayette Parish high school on the map.

Earlier this year, Ellison Haynes was named one of 18 high school athletes in the U.S. to be extended an invitation to Munich, Germany, to join the International Soccer Academy at FC Bayern Munich. Haynes, a sophomore, is missing the entire season at his school, David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy.

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But one of his teammates is also heading overseas and is set to miss district and playoff games as a result. On top of that, it's his senior year.

Drew Long, a senior at DTSMA, is headed to La Liga’s Cadiz CF Academy as part of the club's partnership with the International Soccer Academy. He'll be going to train and play in Cadiz, Spain.

"David Thibodaux soccer has been my whole life since 6th grade, but it got serious in 8th when I was a starting varsity center-mid during district and playoffs," Drew Long explained. "The team's chemistry and love for each other was unmatched, it felt like a family."

"Every year since it has been the same hard work and love all around the field at school to the point of it growing my love further for the game," he added. "With the older players being an influence on my game it bettered me every day to where I am today."

It's an expensive trip, though, and Long's family is raising money to help pay for the experience.

"Soccer has been my everything since I was 4 and without soccer I’m not who I am today," Long said about the decision. "The game teaches me so much day in and day out that this opportunity is all my hard work and dedication finally paying off. This opportunity is a step in the direction of what I want to do the rest of my life."

Long's coach, Derek Menard, is definitely going to miss the senior's impact on the field, but he knows that Long will be doing great things - and has been destined for them for a while.

"We could tell Drew was going to be a special player from a young age," the coach explained. "I moved him up to the varsity team when he was in 8th grade, and while he was big for his age he was still a little skinny for varsity so I tried to ease him into the lineup. I’d play him in more attacking roles which were less physical and limit his minutes and I just remember him being furious every time he wasn’t on the field."

"He’s the type of guy who changes a game," Menard added. "Whether I had him playing up the field or at defender, teams are always hyper-aware of where he is. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard opposing coaches yelling about 'number 30' during games."

Credit: DTSMA Soccer
Credit: DTSMA Soccer

Long, pictured above between Coach Menard and his younger brother, Jack (who also plays soccer for the Bulldogs), has been big part of the team not just on the field, however. He also helped coach the middle school team for a while. He's also been a stellar leader for the team.

"Drew is one of the best captains we’ve ever had," Menard said. "I see him early in the day and I give him a head’s up on what I’d like to get started and by the time I make it to the practice field, he has everybody warming up and getting ready to go. People follow him because they know that he’s willing to do more than I’m asking of him and what he’s asking of his teammates. He’s going to do great things."

Long and Haynes are both major forces for the Bulldogs on the field, but Menard is excited about their futures.

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"It’s still really surreal to have two players now who are headed off to Europe," he said. "I’ve been blessed enough to coach some amazing kids in my time at David Thibodaux and we’ve been lucky enough to help numerous kids continue playing soccer in college, but Europe is the holy grail for soccer players. There’s a small part of me that thinks about how nice it would be to have both of those guys for the full season, but that is definitely far outweighed by how excited I am for them.

"Drew and Ellison are amazing young men who have set an example for all of our other players that you can chase your dream while being grounded and being a team player," he added.

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