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Simon Schoendorf says: It’s all about the team

Five years – that’s how long it has been since I’ve laced up my soccer cleats and kicked a No. 5-sized ball.

I should be thankful I haven’t gained more weight than I already have (12-15 pounds).

I should be thankful I’m not out of breath when I make it to the fourth floor of Cooper Hall, even though it takes me close to five minutes to accomplish that.

I should be thankful that I haven’t forgotten everything I learned about soccer.

And after five years, I should be thankful that when I kicked the ball around with men’s soccer’s Simon Schoendorf, he didn’t laugh himself silly at my striped socks that wouldn’t do the wicked witch of the East justice.

Needless to say my glory days are over.

Not even Bruce Springsteen could help me out.

But I’ve got to hand it to this guy: Co-Conference USA Freshman of the Year and he’s about as modest as an Amish salesman.

He returns from injury to score two goals against Villanova.

He does his job, he jokes with teammates, doesn’t make fun of yours truly and stays away from the limelight.

“It’s all about the team thing out here,” the native of Karlsruhe, Germany, said. “I don’t hold my nose higher than anyone else. I don’t look down on anyone. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else.”

Boy, that’s refreshing. Just like a second-place rank in the Big East’s Red Division standings.

Not only that, Schoendorf sounds older than 20, doesn’t he?

He doesn’t even sound like a foreigner who, yes, enjoys Florida, but not 12 months out of the year.

“I went back (home) over the summer,” said the sophomore, who has two goals and assists in six games. “I wanted to go and stay a while. More than a few weeks where it just seemed like a trip and I would have to rush around saying hi to everyone. I wanted to stay a while and ended up being there almost three months.”

He went home, like a good son. He saw his 17-year-old sister, like a good brother.

And he got another humbling lesson.

Schoendorf’s sister was a contestant in the European version of So, You Can Think You Can Dance? She made it to the final three. One of the judges told her she had a great chance of winning, but doing so would mean dropping out of high school and dedicating her life to being a background dancer for other musicians.

She dropped out of the competition in tears, in front of thousands of viewers.

Schoendorf beamed with pride.

“I had a lot of respect for her for doing that,” he said. “Though it would be pointless for her to take it. After 12 years of school and with only one year left, it would be like me coming to USF for four years and dropping out right before I graduate.

“If you’re good at it, you’ll get a second chance. There’s no doubt about that.”

Then again, maybe he does enjoy some limelight.

“I taught her all her moves,” he said with a laugh.

Coming back to soccer, Schoendorf can be the perfect teammate. He led the team last season in what could be the pat-on-the-back stat: assists.

He doesn’t care about winning awards. He doesn’t care about rankings or stats.

He cares about teammates and bonding. He cares about leading and winning games.

“They know I’m a reliable player now,” Schoendorf said. “They know I’m the type of guy who will go out and never give up, (who) will do anything to win. I don’t want to say modest but I don’t brag or showoff in that sense.”

After hearing that, you should be thankful he plays for USF.