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TORONTO — Reshaun Walkes watched the MLS SuperDraft online, hoping to see his name pop up. Then the MLS site crashed.
Fifteen minutes later he got a call from his agent saying he had been drafted.
"But the site's down," the 22-year-old forward from Brampton, Ont., recalled thinking. "I was in shock in a way. I didn't see it so I didn't want to believe it until I saw it. But if he's telling me, then it must be true. So it was a mixed reaction.
"But I saw it at in the end. It was an unreal moment — especially being my home team."
Walkes, taken in the third round (59th overall) of the virtual draft last Tuesday, has come full circle.
The six-foot 167-pounder left home to pursue his soccer dream, first at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois, and then the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in south Texas.
Toronto FC has already played part of that dream. He survived a couple of tryouts with the TFC academy before being cut about a decade ago.
"It was definitely a motivating factor," he said. "Because the way I am, whoever doubts me I try to prove them wrong, in a way. So I felt that it pushed me more to get where I am now and it's funny that it's the same team (that drafted me)."
Walkes did not hold grudges. He grew up supporting TFC — as well as Arsenal, with Thierry Henry a favourite — and attended matches at BMO Field, even serving as a ball boy once.
He said his family had been rooting for him to be taken by Toronto in the draft.
Bob Bradley, TFC's new head coach and sporting director, said Walkes' attraction was simple.
"He's a goal-scorer. He's athletic, he's a threat and I like the way when he gets in certain situations that he finishes,'' he said.
Walkes scored 27 goals and added 19 assists in 30 games with Lewis and Clark.
In Texas, he led the Vaqueros last season in points (25), goals (nine), assists (seven), shots (37), shots on goal (25), and game-winning goals (two) while playing in all 17 matches, including 13 starts.
He finished third in goals and fourth in assists and points in the Western Athletic Conference and was named to the All-WAC second team for the second year in a row. He had five goals in eight games in his first season.
UTRGV coach Bryheem Hancock noted the increase in assists by Walkes in his second year in the program.
"I saw an unselfishness out of him this season. I saw him take more of a leadership (role)," Hancock told the school website. "I thought he had a very consistent year."
The Vaqueros roster included fellow Canadians Trevor Schneider (Coquitlam, B.C.) and Elyad Shojaei (Vancouver) as well as talent from Brazil, England, Germany, Ghana, Mexico, New Zealand and the U.S.
Walkes had considered trying going straight to the Canadian Premier League after high school but said he listened to advice that he combine school and soccer.
"I ended up taking the chance and going to (college). And it paid off, thankfully."
Walkes, calling his time in Texas a "great experience," credited Hancock for helping him improve on and off the field.
"I feel they just pushed me to be not just a better player but as a person towards my teammates as well — the whole complete thing," he said. "Because I came in from my JUCO (Lewis and Clark) thinking of just myself, I guess you could say.
"And coach Hancock, everyone in the coaching staff, showed me that it's a team game. You play well, the team plays well, we all play well together, you get results."
He will take that attitude to TFC, looking to improve his game so he can help "whatever team I get put on."
"Obviously it would be the first team if I had a choice but … wherever I go I'm willing to give my hardest."
Toronto players are scheduled to undergo medicals Sunday and Monday before flying to California on Tuesday in search of warm weather for training camp. The season kicks off Feb. 26 in Dallas.
Walkes is the second player in UTRGV history to be taken in the MLS SuperDraft after Kyle Edwards (Houston Dynamo, fourth round, 2020).
Walkes also helped the Des Moines Menace win the USL League Two regular-season and playoff titles in 2021, scoring one goal in 13 appearances for the Menace.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2022
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press