By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - While Auburn’s soccer team was advancing farther than ever last fall, former Tigers Julie King, and her sister, Caitlin, followed the action from their home in St. Louis.
“That was a really cool experience for us,” says Julie of Auburn’s first run to the Elite Eight. “We would have a group text going on with our former teammates from Auburn. We all keep in touch. Everyone was so excited and cheering the team on.
“I am an Auburn fan through and through. I follow all the sports, especially the soccer team. Their success last year was super exciting to me. I was really happy for the girls and for Coach Hoppa and how well they did, making history there. I know how much fun that is. I didn’t make it that far, but we won the SEC Championship and that was a memory that I’ll never forget. I can’t imagine how those girls were feeling, being able to make history in such a significant way for Auburn and the soccer program.”
A two-time All-SEC defender and four year starter from 2008-11, Julie serves as captain of the Boston Breakers in the National Women’s Soccer League.
“I think the SEC and Auburn helped prepare me to become a professional soccer player,” she says. “I definitely had to clear some obstacles along the way, and get over some challenges. I’m still continuing to grow and learn, just as I was when I was a player at Auburn. Hopefully I’ll continue to do that throughout my professional career.”
King’s dream of being a professional athlete encountered an immediate speed bump when Women’s Professional Soccer folded after her senior year.
“I emailed some teams that were in the WPS and wanted to see if the teams were still going to do anything,” King says. “I got my foot in the door with Boston and hoped the professional league would come back around the next season.”
While she waited, King remained at Auburn as a student assistant soccer coach. A high school basketball star, she joined the women’s basketball team and, despite a five-year layoff, played in 30 games 2012-13.
Then, another obstacle. A new league, the NWSL, was formed, but King was not in her team’s plans.
“I was on the road, we were playing Vanderbilt that day, I got a call from my coach in Boston, saying they weren’t going to sign me to a new contract,” she says.
“I ended up calling coaches around the league, and seeing who I could come try out with, and I got a call from Boston the next day. All of a sudden they wanted to sign me. I had to swallow my pride and take the contract, because why wouldn’t I?”
Five seasons later, Julie King is still a Breaker.
'Fight for yourself'
“That story is to portray that, especially to these young players and these college players who might want to play, they’re probably going to hit a bump in the road because it’s not easy,” she says. “Just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
“You should fight for yourself and use your resources, and you never know what’s going to happen. I feel like there are a lot of girls playing college soccer who might look past playing professionally because they think they might not get drafted. Sometimes you just have to fight for yourself and hope that following your dreams is the right decision.”
King found herself playing with and against some of her role models.
“I was a little awestruck that I was actually playing with some of these girls I grew up idolizing,” she says. “Those girls played on teams that were some of my favorites growing up. I had posters on my walls in my bedroom of them as a kid.”
'Make someone’s day'
Now, it’s King’s turn to inspire.
“I wanted to be part of something that could stick around and make a difference in young girls’ lives and have them be able to look up to players the same way I did when I was a kid,” she says. “The pro sports weren’t going to be just for the boys. It’s fun, it’s competitive, and we are fun to watch.
“Hopefully, it’ll be an inspiration for girls, not only soccer players, but just in life. Sports can teach people a lot of things about life and how to overcome obstacles. Sometimes it might surprise me when they ask for my autograph and when they recognize me. I don’t think that will ever become boring to me. Win or lose after a game, I might be able to make someone’s day or inspire a little girl to follow her dreams. That is really cool to me and it’s an exciting position to be in.”
There may not be any orange in the Boston Breakers blue uniform, but for Julie King, there will also be orange and blue in her.
“They have the Auburn Family slogan,” King says. “Auburn family is a real thing, and once you’re in, you can’t get out. It’s a really unique thing to be a part of. I was super excited to see their success this season. I’m really proud of the girls and the coaching staff.”
Six years after her senior season at Auburn, professional soccer player Julie King remains true to her school.
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer