Amanda Boyer/Photography Editor
Kai Greene was told he was too small to play Division I soccer.
That was over four years ago when Greene was still playing for Columbia High School in Maplewood, N.J. With those words in mind and soccer a true passion of his, Greene was prepared to attend Kean University where he would continue to play the sport he loved at the Division III level.
Then, Greene got a break.
A resident of South Orange, N.J. since age 6, Greene garnered the attention of former Seton Hall University men’s soccer coach Manfred “Manny” Schellscheidt while playing in a summer league game.
“It was a last minute decision,” Greene said when asked if it was always his plan to attend Seton Hall, a school only minutes away from where he grew up. “Manny saw me playing in a summer game with my club team when he was recruiting someone else. I happened to have a hat trick that game and I guess I caught his eye. That got me aboard.”
Now, four years after being told he was not big enough to compete with the best college soccer has to offer, Greene is excelling for the Pirates and has professional aspirations.
“I’m going to follow up with soccer after college,” the 21-year-old said. “I’m going to get an agent and take this as far as it can go. In 10 years I see myself living comfortably, not struggling out here in the real world and somewhere playing soccer,” he added with a smile.
“I’m behind him 100 percent,” Kai’s mother, Beverlin Greene said. “It’s a great opportunity for him.”
Jokingly, she said that she decided on the name Kai because she knew he would be an athlete and that, “it’s such a sporty name.”
If professional soccer does not work out however, Greene already knows what type of career he wants to pursue. A social behavioral sciences major, Greene says he enjoys working with troubled children, particularly when it comes to teaching them.
“I used to tutor kids a lot,” he said. “I wanted to get involved with kids, especially juvenile delinquents. I feel like I can make a difference in their life. I just see my future being around troubled kids who need some sort of guidance. I started off in finance and figured out that wasn’t really for me. I had been tutoring kids and just thought, ‘Why don’t I just continue working with them? I could really show them something. I’m good at it.’”
“He comes from a comfortable family,” Mrs. Greene said when asked why her son was interested in this kind of work. “He’s always loved kids and he always wanted to be around them. I tried to instill in him how we need to appreciate and value the things that we have and to reach out and touch people who are in need. I’ve seen him grow into that type of person throughout the years. He has a good heart.”
While his future remains bright, Greene made it clear that he is savoring his remaining college days.
“I’m going to miss playing with my team,” he said. “You only have four years with these guys and I know for a fact that I’m going to miss being around them.”
He recalled jokes, bus rides, trips and general team bonding.
Being so close to home, Greene’s mother can also keep an eye on him.
“I want to make sure he is grounded, hanging with the right guys,” she said. “He’s always throughout school, managed to be around a great group all seeking to do the same thing or just move above and excel.”
Off the field, Greene enjoys listening to music, hanging out with friends and playing FIFA. He plans to sell his Play Station 3 in hopes of upgrading to a PS4 soon. A basketball and soccer fan, he said he enjoys watching players such as Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Alessandro Del Piero and David Alaba.
Soon, Greene hopes to be playing professional soccer like those last two players. For now, with his final collegiate season underway, Greene said he has just one goal as his career at Seton Hall comes to a close.
“I want a winning season,” he said.
Gary Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org on twitter @GPhillips2727.