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Comet to kick it VMI style

In what may be a milestone achievement for the Comets boys’ soccer program, senior striker Brandon Garner recently announced his decision to play collegiate soccer at Division I VMI. A Second Team, All-Western Valley District selection his senior season, Garner is well aware of the level of commitment necessary to play collegiate soccer, especially in the structured, military atmosphere at VMI.

“I think about it this way, the ending is going to be better, and you just have to push your way through it,” said Garner, who is familiar already with the “Rat Line.”

“It’s all about how bad you want it, especially with people around you saying you won’t be able to do it.

“That makes me want it even more.”

A veteran of numerous travel team tournaments, VMI Coach Richie Rose saw Garner at a showcase tourney about a year ago and invited him to a clinic at VMI several weeks later.

“At the clinic, he told me he liked my speed, and he wanted me to be on the team, “ recalled Garner, who has received a State Cadetship as well as a local VMI scholarship.

State Cadetships are awarded based on financial need, letter of recommendation from the applicant’s State Senator — in this case Sen. Frank Ruff — and educational potential.

Garner, like all recipients, incurs a two-year obligation to serve the Commonwealth of Virginia or provide service in the National Guard or serve on active duty as a member of the Armed Services.

Garner, who plans on becoming a Marine Corps officer, is scheduled to report to VMI on Aug. 11.

“I’m excited to play soccer there, but I’m shy about the whole Rat Line thing,” admitted Garner, who already has in hand a conditioning and weight-lifting routine handed him by the VMI coaches.

Garner said he would probably play right wing or striker for VMI and potentially move into the starting lineup by his sophomore year.

The Keydets’ playing style is fast-paced, with an emphasis on ball possession, passing and controlling the midfield, and that suits his style of play, according to Garner.

“They run the heck out of people the way they pass the ball, and I like that,” Garner pointed out.

Comets boys’ soccer Head Coach Frank Shealy has coached Garner for four years and credits Garner’s hard work and discipline as factors in getting an opportunity to play Division I soccer.

“I’ve been coaching for 10 years now, and he’s the only one I know of whose gone Division I,” said Shealy.

“We’ve had some who’ve had the talent, but they didn’t have the drive Brandon does to play at the next level, and that is going to help him down the road.”

“Brandon obviously has all the fundamentals, and I take no credit for that,” continued Shealy.

“He does a lot of work on his own, and he’s played travel soccer for a number of years and has really worked on passing the ball and on his skill level.

“That alone has put him where he is now, that and his efforts.”

“He can strike the heck out of the ball, that’s one thing, and his pass delivery is accurate to say the least,” said Shealy when assessing Garner’s skill set.

“Being in a system where he’s going to be surrounded by a lot of skilled players with a lot of speed will make him shine more.”

Garner will fit well into VMI’s structured system, added Shealy.

“Brandon will fit in well, especially if he gets this next year under his belt,” explained Shealy.

“I’ve got a nephew who went to the Air Force Academy, and one thing it does is structure your life.”

Garner, who has played soccer for almost 15 years, has always wanted to play soccer at the collegiate level and will now get a chance to live his dream.

It took many years of traveling to tournaments in Lynchburg two or three times a week and sacrifices on weekends to get him to this point, Garner explained.

“You just have to have the drive to do it, and you have to sacrifice,” he pointed out.

“I played ODP, which was the Olympic Development Program, last year in Roanoke on Friday nights, and other guys were going to football games and the like, so it’s a lot of sacrifice.”

Sacrifice, in this case, has paid off.