Mike Grella, a 22-year-old from Glen Cove, has played thousands of soccer games, from backyard matches to intramural soccer to middle and high school games. Being the son of Italian-born parents, Mike and Grace Grella, Mr. Grella said that he and his brother Frank grew up watching and breathing in what the rest of the world calls football. He said that in Europe, soccer is a way of life, an undying culture, and an unstoppable force. The pride and energy is contagious and he has always felt the calling.
Mr. Grella always knew that going pro was what he wanted out of life, and Europe was where that would have to take place.
He made the varsity team as a freshman at Glen Cove High School and was a staple on the Under-18 and Under-20 U.S. National squads, including the Albertson Storm and the New York Red Bulls.
Mike Grella graduated and headed to North Carolina to attend Duke University. In four seasons, he lead the Blue Devils to a 51-25-7 record. In his college career, he has garnered 109 points, with 41 goals and 27 assists. Mr. Grella helped soar Duke into four NCAA Tournaments and ACC Championships in 2005 and 2006, where he scored the game-winning goals in both ACC wins. Mr. Grella was a semi-finalist for the Hermann Trophy, awarded to the top male and female college soccer players and was a two-time NSCAA All-American. He was awarded the 2008 ACC Offensive Player of the Year.
Graduating from Duke in three years, Mr. Grella headed to Europe in mid-January for a two-week trial in England. This trial was followed closely by scouts from several higher-level championship teams, but when Leeds extended an offer on February 2, Mr. Grella accepted.
Citing the opportunity to help Leeds United, a third-tier League One club, reach championship status, Mr. Grella accepted the 18-month contract. The years of hard work have paid off so far. Now the real challenge begins, he said. Playing in England, where the fans seem almost more passionate about the game than some of the players, there is little room for error and Mr. Grella said he must stay focused and determined.
The soccer player said that his dream has come true, playing professionally.