Indiana University alumni and current New England Revolution rookie, Femi Hollinger-Janzen has been overcoming adversity since birth. He has battled his way from being a boy born with a crooked leg to a late MLS draft pick. With every touch on the ball he takes, you can tell he plays like he has something to prove. We had the opportunity to interview Femi and discuss his first professional goal, overcoming challenges and advice for younger players wanting to play professionally.
Congratulations on scoring your first professional goal! How did scoring your first professional goal feel? Was it different from scoring your first collegiate goal?
Thank you! Yes, just because it was a professional goal. I’d wanted to play professional soccer my whole life and playing the sport at this level is definitely a dream come true. You always dream of scoring professional goals and I mean I did when I was younger. For it to actually happen is surreal in a way. I didn’t believe the ball actually went in at first, when I first scored. But, it did. For it to be in the back of the net and for it to stay there was awesome. [There was] so much excitement coursing through my veins.
As a late draft pick you’re playing more minutes and having a larger impact on your team than many of the guys picked before you. Did your pick position in the draft effect you going into preseason and motivate you to work harder or was it something you just didn’t think about?
So while watching the draft the analysts were saying most players drafted in the 3rd and 4th round don't usually make the teams and that they will have to really do well in order to have a shot. When I heard that at first I was concerned and yes that did push me to work even harder. I love proving people wrong when it comes to things like that and the "haters" and their comments only makes me work harder.
Did you find it challenging to reach the speed of professional play? What helped you develop to that level?
I did find it challenging. Preseason was very much different than college, being probably six weeks longer than college preseason. But just being able to adjust to the speed of play, the physicality of the game, the mentality of it, and you always gotta be prepared. For every game, you’ve always gotta be ready to go. You can’t take any days off. And I put the emphasis on that part especially because mentally that’s the biggest challenge to overcome. Most players have the physical skills and technical skills, but mentally are they there? Come day in and day out, having the correct mentality to perform at the top level and be ready to compete.
As a child you faced many challenges that you had to overcome. Do you believe those challenges have better prepared you for the challenges you face in professional soccer?
Yes, I would definitely say so. There were difficult times in my childhood that made me a harder worker, gave me work ethic. When I’m out there on the field, I always wanted to keep going, always wanted to accomplish the goal I’d set for myself for that day; looking at the bigger picture, the bigger goal I had for myself. And definitely, those challenges I had when I was younger definitely helped.
What’s the first word that comes to mind when the ball hits the back of the net?
“Awesome” or “sweet”, if we’re keeping this PG. (Laughs)
If you could have dinner with any historical figure, who would it be and what would you have?
That’s a tough one. There are several people I’m thinking of right now. I’ll just go with Drogba. Kind of a cliché soccer answer there, but it’d definitely be Drogba. He’s someone I’d love to have dinner with, just pick his brain and ask him questions. [We’d probably have] some West African food, honestly.
Do you have any advice or tips for high school and college players who want to play professionally?
I would tell them to put in the individual extra work, practice your weaknesses until they become your strengths and never let someone else's opinions change your mind of reaching your goals.