Brothers Fabian and Damian Rodriguez have shared the soccer field for most of their lives., whether that was kicking the ball around the yard to help Dalton High School win state championships.
The next time the two take the field together for an official game, it could be as teammates on a professional soccer team.
Following in the footsteps of the older Damian, 2022 Dalton grad Fabian Rodriguez signed an academy contract with Chattanooga Football Club on Thursday.
“It was just a dream of ours just in our backyard to play pro together,” Rodriguez said. “We knew that if we would keep working hard, it could happen. It’s cool that it’s finally coming true.”
The academy contract allows Rodriguez to train with the club’s academy and to be promoted to play with the main roster for the CFC men’s team — and with his brother — all while retaining college eligibility should he decide to leave the organization and play in college.
The organization has given similar contracts in recent years.
“The last couple of years we’ve been able to show that CFC has a good plan for the development of talent throughout the Chattanooga area,” Chattanooga FC Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Alumbaugh said in a press release announcing Rodriguez’s signing. “Obviously Dalton has been a big part of that talent.”
Both Rodriguez brothers had been involved with the organization’s youth academy prior to receiving an official contract.
Damian is attending classes at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga while competing for Chattanooga FC. Fabian said he received some interest from college soccer programs and hasn’t ruled out that route yet, but also hasn’t decided if or where he will attend college.
“There were a few schools interested, but ever since I was involved with CFC, I knew if they wanted to sign me, I would go with them,” Rodriguez said. “I would love to do that and get my education, too.”
Founded in 2009, Chattanooga FC competes in the National Independent Soccer Association and plays home games in the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s Finley Stadium. The club has a men’s and a women’s squad as well as several academy teams for various age groups.
Damian signed with Chattanooga FC in December, saw some playing time, and earned a spot for the 2022 season, which started in April.
Fabian hopes to follow in his brother’s footsteps.
“I think there’s a good chance I can do that if I keep working hard in practice,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve met the players and I’ve been comfortable around them. When I heard that they wanted to sign me, I knew it was the right team to go with, so I wanted to just make it official.”
The two spent time starring on the field at Dalton High School. The pair combined to help lead Dalton to a state championship in 2021 during Damian’s senior season. On that team, Damian was a midfielder and Fabian a forward, and many of the latter’s dazzling goals came after he passed from his brother.
“Those teams at Dalton have helped me become the player that I am today,” Rodriguez said.
Both brothers also developed with the North Georgia Soccer Academy, a local youth soccer organization founded by former Dalton State College soccer coach Kerem Daser, often called “Coach K” by his players.
Rodriguez credits the organization in helping him and his brothers develop the skills that landed them pro contracts.
“Without Coach K, none of this would have happened,” Rodriguez said. “It helps you build up your talent to travel around and play against good competition.”
NGSA partners with Chattanooga FC and also serves as scouting director for the club, giving any talented player in North Georgia a pipeline to the pros.
“At our level we reap the benefits of the hard work of coaches like Coach K and other players out there who spend ungodly amounts of hours with players and unseen time,” CFC men’s head coach Rod Underwood said in the press release. “The hardest part for us is making sure it’s the right time to come in and play and become part of it.”
Rodriguez said the feeling would be special if he and Damian are able to take the field together, but he said it would mean even more to another pair.
“It would definitely bring joy to my parents to see two of their kids on the same field together,” Rodriguez said.