MILLEDGEVILLE — A former Georgia Military College soccer standout returned Tuesday to visit the campus that offered him new opportunities both on and off the field.
Njikang Rene, 26, was a member of the GMC Junior College soccer team from 2010 to 2012. Since then, he has moved on to play for the Georgia Gwinnett College Grizzlies as well as the National Premier Soccer League team, Georgia Revolution.
Rene explained that his journey to get to where he is now has not been a walk in the park.
His home in Cameroon, Africa was where he was first introduced to the sport. Though he was able to play soccer in Cameroon, he said the games lacked structure in his native country. Many coaches came and went, which did not allow Rene to be as comfortable as he wanted to be with the sport.
Rene decided that he needed to look for opportunities elsewhere, which led him to his decision to come to the United States.
These opportunities would not be only in soccer.
“The world is changing,” Rene said. “I knew I would have to focus on being in school and getting good grades more than playing soccer.”
After looking at many colleges to see where he could potentially get a full-ride soccer scholarship, Rene learned that GMC was holding tryouts. He made the team, earned a full scholarship and was accepted to the school.
Though Rene had to sit out the first 10 games of his first year while waiting for paperwork to transfer from Cameroon, he knew it was worthwhile when he finally got on the field.
“I was really excited when I got the call that I would be playing in our next game.”
The season ended on a high note with a few wins, which gave the team confidence carrying over into following season.
With Rene able to play all of his second year, the team went on to do great things, including beating nationally ranked teams, making the playoffs for the first time in school history, and Rene making the Junior College All-American team.
Rene claimed that he credited his success to his coach, Kerem Daser.
“I have never met a coach like that in my life,” he said. “What I am now in soccer is all thanks to Coach K.”
Rene’s first year at GMC was also Coach K’s first year as the team’s coach, which helped give the player and coach a connection on a higher level.
He knew that Coach K saw his potential and provided him with the fundamentals to develop himself into a versatile and all-around skilled player.
After leaving GMC, Rene was accepted into Georgia Gwinnett College on scholarship, where he is pursuing a degree in exercise science. He was also able to tryout for the Georgia Revolution, where he made the team as a defensive midfielder.
“Playing with Georgia Revolution gives me more experience playing with different players and against pro teams,” Rene said.
While he was only in town for a visit Tuesday, Rene plans to come help with youth soccer camps later this month.
Rene stressed that if he could give one piece of advice to young people in any sport, it would be to focus on school first and sports second.
“I love soccer to death, but education is the best thing, and even if I play professional soccer, I will always have an education to fall back on.”
Rene’s message was simple, but powerful: “Never give up. If your mind is there, nothing is above your level.”