Springfield soccer forward Jose Velasquez saw no reason to overcomplicate his recruiting process.

With his senior season suspended and the country in a state of uncertainty amid the coronavirus pandemic, Velasquez opted to be decisive about his future. He recently committed to Bethel (Tenn.) University immediately after coach Malang Jarju extended an offer.

“I said, ‘God, I’ll go to the first college you send me,’” he said. “I emailed a lot of colleges, and Bethel was one that answered me.

“I started talking to the coach and he was like, ‘We need somebody like you with your speed.’”

Velasquez worked with Springfield coach Zac DeFrancesca to explore his options. Bethel gives him a chance to play close to home for a program with a winning tradition. The Wildcats are coming off a 14-2-5 season that ended in the opening round of the NAIA national tournament.

“(Jose) decided that he wanted to stay in Tennessee,” DeFrancesca said. “As we were looking around, we thought Bethel might be a good fit. He reached out, talked to the coach and it was a pretty quick process.”

Velasquez was named the Robertson County Offensive Player of the Year in 2019. He scored six goals and dished out three assists to help the Yellow Jackets earn a share of the District 9-AA regular-season title.

Springfield beat Davidson Academy 3-1 in its lone match before spring sports were halted in mid-March. DeFrancesca said Velasquez “tortured” a defender into a yellow card and finished the game by taking on three players, shaking them all off and then putting the ball in the box for an assist on an insurance goal.

“That shows his relentlessness…he’s not backing down,” DeFrancesca said. “His speed puts him at a different level. He can kind of blow by (opponents).”

Unlike many college-bound players, Velasquez did not get an opportunity to play on the travel soccer circuit. Instead, he competed in adult leagues at the International Indoor Soccer Complex in Antioch to challenge himself and improve his skills.

“There are some hard teams there,” he said. “Most of (the players) went to college, so I know what it takes to play (against) college level (talent).”

Velasquez also had plenty of help at Springfield too, both on and off the field. He credited DeFrancesca, Director of Student Transportation Joshua Hinerman, and teachers Herman Diaz, Audrey Puentes and AnnMarie Turpen for preparing him for college.

Velasquez is trying to keep a normal routine while school is closed. He gets up, eats breakfast, runs on his treadmill and practices soccer every morning before going to work.

Even though his college plans are secured, he can’t help but think about what could have been in his final campaign at Springfield.   

“It’s going to be sad, you know,” he said. “Every senior dreams about their Senior Night, and I’m probably not going to have that. That’s probably going to be the saddest part.

“I would have tried to show the (Bethel) coaches a little more of what I have. But now, I don’t know (if I’ll get that chance).”

DeFrancesca said he thinks the best is still ahead for Velasquez, especially once he has a chance to learn from the Bethel coaches.

“His potential is sky high because he’s just cracking the surface of some of the things he can do,” DeFrancesca said. “The college coaching he will get with positional and in-game play will go a long way. He’s still very much about (beating opponents) with raw skill.”

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