TORONTO - Tears of joy were shed when Toronto FC used its 50th pick in the MLS SuperDraft on Micheal Ramos, a forward from Division 3 Whitworth University.
Ramos and his mother shared the moment over the phone after watching the third round unfold on their laptops.
He watched the first two rounds Jan. 15 live on the Internet. Then, last Tuesday, it was a matter of constantly refreshing his browser to update the league's draft tracker.
"I got to No. 7 (pick of the third round), I refreshed again and it said No. 9," he said. "I didn't realize for a second and then I saw No. 8 and it was me. And I was quite shocked.
"I didn't really know what to think," he added.
Ramos called his mother, who was watching on a laptop in Seattle.
"She was just bawling. It was quite an emotional thing for us ... one of the best experiences of my life," he said between packing, saying goodbyes, withdrawing from spring courses and finding substitute coaches for his under-12 girls and under-14 boys teams.
Playing pro soccer has been Ramos's dream "forever."
The five-foot-11 163-pounder played at three colleges, taking time off to explore options overseas. When that didn't work, he played locally in his native Spokane, Wash., worked and coached soccer.
The 23-year-old Ramos was the lone Division III player taken in the four-round draft.
Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney says Ramos reminds him "a lot" of fellow Canadian forward Tesho Akindele, who came out of Division 2 Colorado School of Mines and went onto become MLS rookie of the year with FC Dallas last year.
"He's a wide player who's very aggressive at taking people on," Vanney said of Ramos. "He's got good size, good athleticism."
Ramos can play on both sides and is "fearless" when it comes to running at defenders, he added.
"He became an interesting target," said Vanney, who saw Ramos at a joint combine with the Seattle Sounders in Las Vegas.
Ramos also went to a New York City FC combine in Connecticut and was planning to work out for the Sacramento Republic USL Pro team until he got drafted.
Ramos led Whitworth with 40 points (14 goals and 12 assists) in 2014, topping the Northwest Conference during the regular season in total points and assists while tying for the lead in goals.
"People say I play like Thierry Henry," said Ramos. "That's a plus.
"I just like to run at players if I have any space. I'm good at keeping the ball. I pick and choose my times when to pass and when to dribble well. So if the ball comes to me and I have pressure, I can play out of it. And then when I have space, you better look out. I'm coming at you."
He was the first Pirate to earn NSCAA All-America first team honours.
"My best soccer experience so far," Ramos said of his one year at Whitworth in Spokane. "They really valued character and trying to make us better men, not just better soccer players. That was a big thing for me."
Ramos transferred to Whitworth after spending two years at Walla Walla Community College, one at Division 1 Seattle University where he had a full scholarship, and taking two years off.
Coming off an in injury, he did not have a good experience in Seattle where the entire coaching staff was fired during the 2011 season.
So he put school to one side to focus on soccer, taking part in a Las Vegas combine put on by Pro Soccer Consulting. That eventually led to a tryout with Iceland team IBV with Ramos spending a short time with the club in both Sweden and Iceland.
It did not lead to a contract, however. Ramos was disappointed, but only briefly.
"I've been told my whole life to keep pushing and something will happen," said Ramos. "That was my first actual tryout so I felt like it was good to at least get my foot in the door, get my name out there."
He returned home, playing for the local Spokane Shadow team, which featured several players from Whitworth. Away from the field, he worked in a grocery store and coached soccer, before enrolling in Whitworth for his final year of college eligibility.
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