Kevin Ellis became the first soccer player from Barton Community College to sign with a Major League Soccer team when he signed his contract with Sporting Kansas City — formerly the Kansas City Wizards — on Feb. 18.
Ever since, Ellis has trained with Sporting Kansas City, endured rookie chores, played in preseason games, made the reserve list for the first three regular-season games and even met an NFL wide receiver.
So what’s a day in the life of an MLS player?
Ellis said that it is pretty laid back.
“For me right now, I wake up and come into the training facility one hour early,” Ellis said. “We get our morning treatments and we all eat breakfast together.
“We start training at 10 and we usually go to 12 or somewhere around there. Then, since I’m a rookie, I pick up things around the training facility. Then we go home and watch soccer, sleep or play Playstation.”
While that may be the average day, Ellis said that practices vary on difficulty.
“Every day is different,” Ellis said. “The coaches change practices. Sometimes they will come in and say, ‘this is a light day’ or ‘this is going to be a heavy day.’
“Every single day is intense, though. We all love the game and we are all competitive. We don’t want to lose.”
Ellis’ chores range from picking up soccer balls after practice, cleaning up around the facility and restocking the refrigerator to more specific things.
“If one of the older guys asks you to pick up his cleats, you do it,” Ellis said. “We pick after everyone. You know, whatever the older guys ask you to do, you do.”
Despite the work, Ellis said that he is living the dream.
“I have been a fan of the team my whole life,” Ellis, who grew up in Kansas City, said.
Kansas City has had a professional soccer franchise for 16 years, making the team only three years younger than Ellis.
In 1995, Kansas City was one of 10 charter members of the MLS, and it unveiled the Kansas City Wiz.
The Wiz lasted two years before the name was changed to the Wizards in 1997.
The Wizards won an MLS Cup in 2000 and was in the cup final in 2004 but fell to D.C. United, 3-2.
Since then, the Wizards made it to playoffs in 2007 and 2008, but didn’t make it to the final game.
Prior to the 2011 season, the Wizards changed their name to Sporting Kansas City. The team plans to move into the newly built $200 million stadium in June.
Ellis said he began his life with soccer at age three, coincidentally around the same time Kansas City landed a pro soccer team.
“I was 3-years-old when I started playing soccer,” Ellis said. “My mom put me in it. I loved it, and she couldn’t take me out of it.”
Ellis said the early start his mom Christina gave him could be responsible for his success now.
“Most kids start playing when they are five,” Ellis said. “So my early start could probably be why I am where I am now.”
Where Ellis is now is playing soccer with some of the same players he grew up idolizing.
“I was a huge fan,” Ellis said. “My mom would take me to every game, and now I am playing soccer with one of the players I loved to watch growing up, Davy Arnaud.”
Arnaud is a team captain who has scored 43 goals and totaled 33 assists in his career as a midfielder.
With the Cougars, Ellis was a two-time first-team National Junior College Athletics Association All-American. He scored 23 goals and had eight assists as a freshman, playing as a forward and midfielder.
It was Ellis’ freshman year that he said enriched his soccer skills.
“The team we had my freshman year was unbelievable,” Ellis said. “There was one player, Leandro Reis, that helped me out so much.
“He was one of the most ridiculous players I’ve ever played with. He was from Brazil. Every practice and every game, I picked his brain and tried to incorporate things he did into my game.”
His sophomore year, Ellis scored 11 goals and managed four assists while playing defense.
“It is actually very common for players to make the transition to defense,” Barton head coach Oliver Twelvetrees said. “(But)to make it to that level as an attacking player is very difficult. It is a very high speed of play and high speed of thought.
“You have a little bit more time to see the game when you are working in the back and with Kevin’s athleticism, he could make that change.”
Ellis holds the school record for most points scored with 80 and he also sits in second place for the most goals scored in a single season for his freshman efforts.
“It was great to see him develop as a player and a person over the two years he had here at Barton,” Twelvetrees said. “We’re still pretty close. It’s been a good experience.
“He was obviously at a different level of athleticism. His biggest attributes are his power, strength and speed.”
With the Cougars, Ellis also made two trips to the NJCAA national tournament, the most recent ending in a third-place finish, the best finish in school history.
On March 23, Chad Ochocinco of the Cincinnati Bengals, who was forced to search for something else to do with the NFL lockout, decided that he would play MLS.
Ellis was there to watch the media frenzy unfurl. He was even featured in an ESPN news package sitting next to Ochocinco at Fogo de Chaos, a Brazilian restaurant on the Plaza in Kansas City, Mo.
“It was crazy,” Ellis said. “He’s a really nice guy. You know, some people think he’s a bad person because he’s so vocal, but they don’t actually get to meet him.
“He came in with tremendous respect for us and the game. He’s a nice and genuine person.”
Ellis said his opinion of the outspoken wide receiver and reality television star was changed.
“I thought he just wanted attention,” Ellis said. “but when he came in, the respect he had for the rest the guys and the game ... he worked hard.
“I have respect for him for really trying to do something that he wanted to do his whole life. By the end of it, he got better. He wasn’t bad.”