Al Hernandez embodies the kind of player a college soccer coach would want on his roster.
“He is a kid that wherever we tried to play him, he gave maximum effort,” said Shelbyville High School boys soccer head coach Ben Purvis.
Early in his Golden Bear career, Hernandez was a forward with the ability to score goals. During his junior year, Purvis saw the opportunity to pair Hernandez with Drew Hassebroek to form a creative midfield duo.
“We were lacking guys to feed him the ball (as a forward) and he came to us and wanted to be on the ball more,” said Purvis. “He and Drew became a dynamic pairing in the midfield.”
As a club soccer player, though, Hernandez gained experience as a defenseman where he anticipates starting his collegiate soccer career.
Earlier this month, Hernandez made his commitment official to be part of the first-ever men’s soccer roster at Indiana University Purdue University Columbus.
Tyler Joy-Brandon, a former First Team All-American at Transylvania University and 2021 assistant coach at Hanover College, is the program’s inaugural coach.
Two years ago, Hernandez did not seriously consider a soccer career after high school graduation.
“I liked playing the sport and I started thinking I only had two years left,” said Hernandez, who had five goals and three assists this past season for Shelbyville. “I wanted to keep playing.”
Indiana University East was on his radar but the unique opportunity to be part of a first-year program that was close to home was too hard to pass up.
“It’s something new and different and I wanted to be part of something brand new and build something good,” said Hernandez.
Hernandez started playing Blue River Soccer Association leagues when he was seven years old and his love for the sport convinced him to give up wrestling. As he gained experience, he joined a club soccer team that put him against tougher competition.
“It was harder because I was put on a higher (level) team,” he said.
Quiet off the field, Hernandez earned great respect on the pitch. He was named a Shelbyville captain both his junior and senior years. He finished his career with 15 goals and six assists in 51 matches.
“You never have to worry with Al and his work rate,” said Purvis. “He has a motor that a lot of players don’t have.”
Hernandez credits Purvis with much of his development.
“Since seventh grade when I first met him and I went to the practices where he would be sometimes, I always liked how he was and how he did everything,” explained Hernandez. “Throughout the years, he taught me to be a better person. He showed me what I can do to get better and progress.”
Purvis has no doubt Joy-Brandon will experience a similar type player.
“Al is extremely coachable,” said Purvis. “He has that hard-nosed mentality to play college defense.”
Many freshmen joining established programs have difficulties finding playing time early in their career. The fact that Hernandez is joining a start-up program could help him get playing time quicker.
“I am excited for him to take on that challenge,” said Purvis. “He can jump in right away and challenge for a spot. Everyone has a clean slate (with the coach).”
Hernandez already has two connections within the program as two players on his club team are also committed to IUPUC.
Hernandez intends to major in Business Management and Accounting.
IUPUC will join the River States Conference in the fall of 2023, pending full membership in the NAIA being granted to IUPUC and its Crimson Pride athletics programs.
Get the most recent Shelby County Post headlines delivered to your email. Go to shelbycountypost.com and click on the free daily email signup link at the top of the page.