Fro Adu steps out from under his brother's shadow
It's rare that Fro Adu has the opportunity to achieve a soccer first in his family. Such is life when one's older brother is one of the biggest stars ever to emerge on the U.S. soccer scene.
"Some people would think I would be jealous and stuff like that, but that's just not the type of people that we are," Adu said of being the younger brother of Freddy Adu. "If he was in my shoes, he would be the exact same way. I know it's because of the way my mom raised us. I'm just happy because it's like, 'Wow, he's doing his thing and I'm his brother.'"
Now, it's Fro's turn to do "his thing." He has committed to play at George Mason University next fall.
"First of all, it's great because I'm going to college," Adu said. "That makes my mom happy because Freddy didn't go to college. He did the soccer thing."
By "doing the soccer thing," Adu was referring to how his older brother became the youngest player to sign an MLS contract when he joined D.C. United at 14.
While playing at the Division I level might not stack up in many people's minds to playing in the pros, it should be noted that Fro Adu is a 15-year-old high school senior.
"I can't even drive next year when I go to college," Adu said. "How messed up is that? My whole high school years I couldn't even drive."
He might not be able to drive, but he can play. His current club coach, Pete Mehlert, has no qualms about his young player's readiness.
"His experience, maybe it rubbed off from Freddy, maybe from the national team and all that, I think bodes well for his readiness for the next level," said Mehlert, coach of the Potomac Cougars U-17 team.
Previously the men's soccer coach at American University, Mehlert knows a thing or two when it comes to determining a player's ability to compete at the collegiate level. A number of coaches from top college programs agreed with Mehlert's assessment. Adu's skills drew interest from schools across the nation, including North Carolina, Wake Forest and Virginia. Proximity to home, the chance to help build the program and the Patriots' coaching staff led Adu to choose Mason -- against Freddy's urging.
"He was always like, 'Fro, go to an ACC school," Adu said. "He's big time. ... But my brother didn't really have a big influence on me. It was all my mom because I honestly was not going to listen to him about college. I was like, 'Don't you tell me about college. You didn't go to college.' But he was happy. It's very close, too, so he can come watch games if he's home."
Adu's current coach is also looking forward to getting a chance to watch him play at Mason.
"George Mason is very lucky to be getting his service as a player," Mehlert said. "He's a born leader. He makes our team play more like a team. He's a two-way player on the field. He helps out on the attack and defends. He organizes his teammates. ... He's more than ready [to play at the next level] because he's physically very gifted."
Mehlert isn't the only person that recognizes Fro Adu's ability. Will Nord, who coaches the FC DELCO U-17 club team out of Eastern Pennsylvania, faces Adu's Cougars at least once a year.
"Fro Adu is a very nice player," Nord said. "His technical skill is solid and he has a good understanding of the game. I have always thought it must be very tough for him to basically be in the shadow of his brother. It looks as if Fro is in a nice situation at Potomac though."
While Fro has spent most of his soccer career having to deal with being "Freddy Adu's younger brother,'' he's been able to escape that when playing on his own team.
"It was never an issue," Mehlert said. "For me as a coach, he's on our team. Freddy is a nonentity. [Having Fro has] been a blessing for our team."
Not that Fro minds being Freddy's little brother.
"All you can do is be happy and just watch him be successful because no matter what, it's going to be like, 'Hey, you're Freddy's brother,'" Fro Adu said. "I'm just like, 'Yeah, I'm Freddy's brother.' It's all positive to me, no negative. I definitely look up to him. That's your brother. He's always going to be your brother regardless."
Of course, when Freddy Adu is one's brother, the thrill of him being Freddy Adu wears off quite quickly. Having a chance to play one-on-one with the young phenom is an opportunity most amateur soccer players would love to have. Growing up, Fro usually took a pass.
"Surprisingly, him and I have never really played together," the younger Adu said. "He was always like, 'Fro, let's go outside,' but I was lazy back in the day."
Of course, at 15, back in the day refers to second grade, Adu clarified. By the end of grammar school, Fro started to buckle down when it came to soccer, in part inspired by his older brother's success.
"I was like, 'You know what? I can see myself doing this in the future,'" Adu recalled. "Which is what I'm doing now."
But Fro Adu credits his work ethic to another family member.
"That mentality came from my mom," he said.
His mother, Emelia, moved her two sons to the United States from Ghana when Freddy was 8 and Fro was 6. She worked double shifts at McDonald's, Target and Home Depot to provide a better life for her children. With Freddy's success as a professional player, their mother no longer needs to work. Fro is looking to contribute in his own way.
"It's like my brother's helping out [financially], and I kind of look at it as, 'OK, Fro, now it's your turn to do something,'" he said. "Being able to see [my mother] see me and be like, 'Both of my sons are doing something really big.' Those are one of the goals and one of the things that drive me to go to college and become better educated and become a better soccer player."
That means a lot to his mother.
"She's very big on education," Fro explained. "That's why we came over here, to get a better life, especially an education. She really couldn't do anything about the Freddy thing because he's a diamond in the rough, but I guess she was kind of looking to me to bring that to the family -- the whole college thing."
It's a role Fro Adu is proud to tackle. Unlike many highly talented players currently entering college, he plans to get his degree.
"I'm not going to say that I'm not going to look at a possibility if anything happens, but right now, I'm focusing on graduating college," he said. "And regardless, even if I left early, I would definitely finish college."
He qualified that by saying it would be a four-year degree, as opposed to the major his mother is hoping he'll pursue.
"She keeps telling me, 'Fro, you've got to be a doctor,'" Adu said. "I'm like, 'Mom, I'm not going to school for eight years.'"
The midfielder is still uncertain what he'll study when he starts school, but he's sure of one thing.
"Honestly, I don't know exactly what I'm going to be," Adu said. "All I know is I'm going to be someone."
Maria Burns covers college soccer for ESPNsoccernet. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.