By Diana Vasquez, Jan. 26, 2021
Former Bronco midfielder Jimmie Villalobos (’20, pedagogical kinesiology) will kick off the 2021 season with the Chattanooga Red Wolves in Tennessee for the USL League One, a Division III league of American professional soccer.
“It has always been my goal to go on to the next level and be on TV,” said Villalobos. “At the age of 4, I knew this was the sport that I loved and hoped to do big things in.”
In 2020, Villalobos signed with LA Force, a professional soccer club based in Los Angeles; yet, COVID-19 caused game cancellations and he only played six times.
“The shutdowns made me realize that I could use the room for improvement,” said Villalobos. “I was training every day preparing myself for the league to come back on, and when the tournament kicked off, I gave it my 110% where another opportunity came in.”
Strength training contributed to Villalobos’ strong appearance in the National Independent Soccer Association Championship tournament with LA Force last fall in Detroit’s Keyworth Stadium, catching the Red Wolves’ attention with his dribbling skills. In the tournament, Villalobos netted one goal and one assist.
Villalobos’ success is no accident. Coming to CPP, Villalobos was determined to win the All-American award. Sure enough, in 2019, he became the 11th student-athlete in CPP men’s soccer history to earn the award. His grit positioned him to become the CCAA’s leading scorer and tied as the third leading scorer in the NCAA D2 for the 2019-2020 season, obtaining 18 goals in 20 games and six assists.
Villalobos was also recognized as the CCAA’s Most Valuable Offensive Player and the D2 CCA West Region Player of the Year for 2019. Throughout his CPP career, he scored 51 goals and contributed 17 assists, leaving him tied with Johnny Lima (1985-88) as the men’s program second all-time scorer.
Despite his notable career, it was his perseverance that brought him to the CPP men’s soccer program.
Growing up in Oasis, California, Villalobos did not have the funds to play for club or academy-level teams; instead, he played in the community league and was eventually invited to play for the club Desert United in the Silver Category for the California State Soccer Association, South with paid funds. After graduating from Desert Mirage High School in 2013, Villalobos’ future became uncertain.
“My full ride scholarship didn’t go through to play for Cal Baptist University because I didn’t have the grades,” said Villalobos. “It was pretty tough, because I did not want to stay in the Valley. I wanted to do something with my life.”
As one door closed, another opened for Villalobos at CPP.
Villalobos’ family members were crucial in motivating him to continue with his dreams. He attended the College of the Desert, a community college, for two years to obtain his associate degree. Villalobos stated that this experience disciplined him to be more organized in his education. He played one year for the college before being recruited by the Broncos with a scholarship.
Villalobos collected memories, awards and friendships as a Bronco. Villalobos described Adam Reeds, former men’s soccer head coach, as a role model for him offering him advice he still cherishes.
Villalobos recalls the men’s soccer program staff as welcoming and pushing him to be a better person off and on the field. The university’s environment introduced him to new perspectives and cultures he was unaware of.
Transitioning into professional soccer was challenging for the former Bronco with the professional level becoming even more competitive, he added.
Regardless, Villalobos encourages CPP athletes to chase their dreams and stay consistent in their training to become pro athletes. He believes that a player’s individual skill and talent can differentiate a player from another and be the key to moving on to the next level.
“If you really want something, it is possible,” said Villalobos. “Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.”
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