By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
Forrest Yates knew who to thank first for his opportunity to play soccer at Bluefield College.
“I wouldn’t be getting this scholarship if it wasn’t for the help of my mom,” Yates said. “She has driven me everywhere and has spent so much time helping me.”
It was with the assistance of his mother, Myra Yates, and his own drive and determination that the Graham senior was able to sign a scholarship offer on Tuesday to play soccer for the Rams.
“I love soccer,” said Yates, who is also a standout cross country runner for the G-Men. “I probably played every sport there ever was when I was younger, but I had to eventually pick one to go on with and excel at and it was soccer.”
Bluefield College athletic director and men’s soccer coach Pete Dryer recounted how he first heard of Yates while attending a Bluefield Orioles game three years ago at Bowen Field.
Dryer was approached by another spectator, who told him he might want to get to know Yates, who was also at the game. Call that a good tip.
“I did get to know him a little bit and had a chance to see to him play at Graham,” Dryer said. “I have really enjoyed seeing him play in Richmond and North Carolina and all the different tournaments the Roanoke Stars play.”
Yates has not only been a standout for the G-Men, but has played in the Roanoke Stars travel club for coach Graham MacLean.
His mother was quick to credit that experience for his success on the pitch, and Yates also spoke of the contributions from Graham girls coach Hank Furry, first-year Graham boys soccer coach George Aiello, boys assistant Chuck Presley and former boys head coach Greg DeGray.
“It has been very good with Coach Furry, I have had Coach DeGray and this year Coach Aiello and Coach Chuck,” Yates said. “I have had some really good coaches, I have been lucky.
“We are young this year, but we are talented and we should do all right.”
Especially with Yates on the field. Aiello is a former coach at Bluefield High School, who is glad to have Yates as a part of his first team at Graham.
“It is a great opportunity for Forrest,” Aiello said. “He is a special kid, he is a special player. He definitely stands out, has great leadership on the field and off the field.
“He is always willing to help the younger boys too, he is a great mentor.”
The ability to play all over the pitch is a strength for Yates, and that is something that Dryer hopes to use to his advantage at Bluefield College.
“We are real excited to have Forrest joining us this year...,” Dryer said. “I have always enjoyed my conversations with Forrest and getting to know him. His work ethic is very strong, he is a very versatile player, and that is something that I like.
“He can play multiple positions, has played multiple positions and is very interested in developing his game.”
Yates joins a program that won eight games last season, including four in the Mid-South Conference, the Rams’ first year in that league.
He feels like his tenure at Graham has prepared him for the next step of his life, not only on the pitch, but also in the classroom.
“I think Bluefield in general has more opportunities for me,” said Yates, who plans to major in business.
“I got to know Coach Dryer through Graham and through my travel program also and that just led up to this...
“I think Graham is a lot tougher than a lot of the schools in the area. We have had some good teachers and (principal) Mr. (John) O’Neal keeps us straight most of the time so we do pretty good.”
Dryer is confident that the work ethic Yates has exhibited at Graham will help in his adjustment to playing for the Rams.
“At Bluefield we are interested not only in the academics, although that is a huge part of it, and I can see he is determined that way,” Dryer said. “That will help keep him determined that way athletically as well, those are all very important to us.
“Forrest, we are excited to have you. I know you are going to do a great job and work hard so I am very excited for this day.”
Yates was one of three Graham soccer players who committed to play at Bluefield on Tuesday, joining Whitney Browning and Kali Furry, who signed on the same afternoon to play for the Bluefield women’s program.
“We are doing good,” Yates said. “We had one last year (too) so we are doing good.”
—Contact Brian Woodson