Former student-athletes go pro in Europe
Michael Lindsey and Aurélien Norest may have come from very different walks of life, but their paths crossed at MNU, where their time as student-athletes helped them develop as players at MidAmerica. Now, both Lindsey and Norest play professionally overseas.
California native Michael Lindsey began playing football for MNU after first playing for a junior college and another university. Now, Lindsey is playing professionally in the Czech Republic. Lindsey said that, in the midst of his early football career, MNU felt like home.
“I was looking for a fresh start and a new home,” Lindsey said. “MNU welcomed me with open arms and it seemed like the perfect place.”
Aurélien Norest, also known as “Frenchy,” graduated from MNU in 2014 and is now playing soccer professionally in Iceland. Originally from France, he drew the attention of many NCAA and NAIA coaches at a scouting combine at the French national soccer center, Clairefontaine.
“After meeting with all the different coaches, I already had a little preference for MNU [after] the speech Coach Wardlaw gave to me,” Norest said. “I could feel a kind of wisdom, strength and truth in the words he was using,”
During his time at MNU, Norest said his experiences with the coaches, teammates, students, professors and staff helped him achieve his dream of playing professional soccer.
Lindsey said that after his time at MidAmerica, he also knew he wanted to continue to pursue a professional career.
Over the course of the next year and a half, Lindsey attended an NFL regional combine in Indianapolis, tried out for many arena football teams and even tried out for the Kansas City Chiefs, but Lindsey never stuck.
“I was ready to just hang up my cleats, but I moved back home to California,” Lindsey said. “I played for a local semi-pro team called the Capital City Fury that gave me an opportunity to play and get exposure for myself.”
It was during Lindsey’s time with the Fury that he drew the attention of some overseas teams. With the help of a friend, Lindsey earned a spot on a professional team in the Czech Republic: the Pardubice Stallions.
Norest got his first professional contract through Soccerviza, a sport agency. After attending a combine sponsored by the agency, an Icelandic team extended Norest an offer to become part of Knattspyrnudeild Vestra (Vestra FC), which Norest accepted.
Norest said that playing professionally is more of a lifestyle than playing in college. He is under a strict diet and spends many hours working out off the field because, with a professional contract, the game becomes a business and with that comes more pressure.
Lindsey agreed that playing professionally raises new challenges, but also new opportunities. Since joining the Stallions, Lindsey said he has had the opportunity to step up as a leader to help develop the players’ skills. Lindsey said he enjoys the style of play and hopes his time with the Stallions will open new doors in the future.
As an American living in a foreign country, Lindsey said he initially had some difficulty adjusting to a new culture.
“This is my first time in Europe, so things like grocery shopping and asking where the bathroom [is] was tough at first,” Lindsey said. “But they speak English here and my teammates [taught] me a little Czech, so it’s fun.”
Norest said that he did not face many problems when he moved to Iceland. He said English is widely spoken so it is not difficult to move around and interact with the people.
According to athletic director Todd Garrett, the success of Lindsey and Norest is a testament, not only MNU’s ability to attract good athletes, but also the university’s ability to develop them into even better players.
“Our coaches have relationships with professional scouts, locally as well as internationally,” Garrett said. “Their duty is to help create a little bit of momentum for the student-athlete and help promote the student-athlete to move on and play at the next level.”
The ability to equip student-athletes to “go pro” is something Garrett says he values about MNU’s athletic program. Linsey and Norest are just two examples of the kind of path athletes can take after leaving MidAmerica.
“Our head coaches are well connected,” Garrett said. “When those student-athletes leave here, graduate and move on to the professional level, it’s really another way we can spread our brand.”
Carlos Guzman- More by this author
Carlos Guzman ('19) is from Overland Park, Kansas and is the Sports editor for The Trailblazer. He is a biology major with an emphasis in pre-medicine and is also pursuing a minor degree in Youth and Family Ministry. Carlos is also on the cross country and track and field team.