Philadelphia, Pa. – Raising a family of three athletic and energetic boys in Matt, Mike, and Nick, the Besler parents Greg and Diane were always on the go. Between baseball, basketball and soccer, every weekend moment was planned with military precision.
“There were days when we had to write everything down on cards so we could divide and conquer, so to speak, on who’s going to take who,” said their mother Diane. “I think we only left Nick once at a soccer field. Luckily there was someone there who knew us and stood with him until we got back but that was crazy.”
Laughing at the memory, Diane and Greg were both at Nick Besler’s side Thursday when the Portland Timbers selected the midfielder with the fifth overall pick in the first round of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft.
With his parents looking on, Besler made his speech before the packed ballroom before running the gauntlet of media.
“My initial reactions when I got drafted was just pure excitement,” said Besler.
A team captain at Notre Dame and a key part of their run to the 2013 NCAA national championship, Nick is also the younger brother of Matt Besler, center back for Sporting Kansas City and the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Besler’s first step on this path began back when he was literally the baby of the family. Barely yet able to walk, he can remember getting hauled around to games for his older siblings. Watching all of that activity on various playing fields, it wasn’t long before Nick would follow in their footsteps.
“[Matt and Mike] both played soccer so I was constantly around soccer, watching games, traveling with their teams,” said Besler. “It was really easy for me to get into it. I wanted to do the same things my brothers did. I played at a young age and I fell in love with it.”
Parents Greg and Diane grew up as athletes themselves—Greg with football and basketball, Diane with field hockey and track and field—but they quickly learned soccer as their kids gravitated to it.
“It was the thing to do and I kind of learned how to coach it when the kids were playing 3v3 and they played in the backyard,” said Greg. “Every sport that they played, they always played with a lot of energy. I think it was just more of a fit that they kind of started to migrate to soccer because the game fit their type of athleticism.”
That athleticism led Nick to set a school record at Blue Valley West High School in Stilwell, KS where he registered 47 career goals in addition to posting 24 assists. Heading to Notre Dame and playing primarily as a holding midfielder with versatile ability at center back, Besler earned 2013 and 2014 All-ACC First Team, 2013 NCAA All-Tournament Team and 2014 NSCAA All-American Second Team honors.
“[Nick’s] one of the most MLS-ready guys in the draft,” said Timbers head coach Caleb Porter following Besler’s selection. “He’s got a great mentality. He comes from a really good program at Notre Dame, they won a national championship with him as captain, he played for a good coach in Bobby Clark and he’s got the pedigree.”
Though it may be easy to draw parallels to his well-known brother Matt, Nick acknowledges that while his brother is a great resource for what life could be like at the next level, the younger Besler is also ready to strike out on his own.
“Most people probably assume that Matt’s in my ear and giving me a ton of advice,” said Besler. “But for the most part, he’s kind of just let me just feel this whole process out for myself. Which is kind of the way I wanted it, to be honest. I’m pretty independent.”
And as soccer plays a big role for the family, Nick and Matt are close-knit brothers first and foremost.
“When we talk, we talk about other things and maybe towards the end of the conversation, we’ll mention some soccer stuff,” said Besler. “I’d say the majority of our conversations are what you would expect from just two brothers.”
Looking ahead to his arrival in the Rose City, Besler can’t wait to get started with the next stage of his life.
“I think it’ll be a new experience for me. Portland has extremely loud fans and extremely passionate fans,” he said. “Whenever I’m out there, in front of them, I’ll be extremely grateful and extremely excited to give everything I have to impress them and keep them chanting for us.”
It’s all part of a progression as today was just one more step on the path. Retired LA Galaxy star Landon Donovan—who had just received the honor of having had the MLS Most Valuable Player Award being named after him—mentioned that fact in a speech to the SuperDraft crowd just prior to Orlando City SC going on the clock with their own first pick.
Talking to the crowd and the new soon-to-be drafted players, Donovan stressed that as thrilling as the day is, it is not an endpoint, but a beginning.
Sitting beside Nick and Diane inside the busy Pennsylvania Convention Center Thursday, that message hit home for his father Greg, and in turn, Nick.
“I was just thinking about all the times where he was little and driving back and forth from St. Louis with Diane and back to Kansas City playing soccer,” said Greg. “Who’d have ever thought that this is where it would have lead?
As exciting as it is, as Donovan mentioned, he said, ‘We often think that this is our big day.’ But Nick even tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘This better not be my biggest day. I hope there’s more big days to come.’”
For Portland Timbers fans, they can’t wait to see those days arrive.