By Bob Narang

LaSalle-Peru goalie Jalen Depenbrock attends different soccer camps throughout Illinois in search of bettering his skills and attracting attention from college coaches.

As a three-year starter and captain for the Cavaliers, Depenbrock discovered the ideal showcase on the day after Thanksgiving this year – the 15th Annual PepsiCo Showdown College Showcase. The annual “Black Friday” event, which was presented by Buddy’s HELPERS and featured high school boys and girls soccer players from all over Illinois, was hosted by The Max in McCook. 

Depenbrock, a first-time attendee, said the showcase was ideal, because he played in three games and received quality goalkeeper training during the goalie combine portion of the event from soccer guru Stan Anderson. The longtime professional, college and club coach created the world’s largest and most popular goalie camp known as “Camp Shutout.” 

“I want to play in college, so this event is important,” said Depenbrock, who traveled two hours to attend the popular showcase. “It helped me touch up on my skills and get back in the groove after high school ended. 

“I go to camps all the time. This is a good way to work off a big Thanksgiving meal, get some awareness and for people to see my skills.” 

Deerfield girls soccer coach Rich Grady was one of many Chicago-area high school coaches taking part in helping out at the PepsiCo Showdown College Showcase.

Grady said the showcase, which features games, a goalie combine and also combine physical testing, is the perfect venue for high school players from all levels and schools. The day offers players a chance to develop their skills and get noticed by college coaches.

“It’s not an everyday thing where you get a chance like this and also to work with coaches like Stan,” Grady said. “This is a good showcase for kids, who might otherwise fall through the cracks recruiting wise. 

“You don’t have to be from a big-time high school program. Those kids get noticed anyways.

“This is an opportunity for anyone to come here and let your play speak for itself. You are able to come out, almost like pick-up soccer, because you play with different players from all over the state.  

“You can show people what you can do. Some of the college coaches don’t know all the players, so they have an opportunity to see all these players from different high schools at one site in one short day.”

Anderson, who worked with nearly 30 boys and girls goalkeepers during the goalie combine, knows what the event is all about – helping kids.  

“My goal is to help the kids, and I know the college coaches are looking for players,” Anderson said. “My motivation is to help the kids, even in a short period of time and maybe even connect them with somebody. 

“There are a multitude of coaches watching, but you have to be good on the day they’re watching. Hopefully, you are good all the time.

“But at an event like this, you can attract a coach’s attention. It’s like the dating and relationship process. It can start here and maybe it continues when you make a visit to the college campus. At the end of the day, today is an opportunity for these (goalies) to showcase their skills.” 

Rich’s son, Ryan Grady, was attending the showcase for the third year. The Deerfield junior goalie noted how the PepsiCo Showdown College Showcase has grown each year.

“I’m encouraging other soccer players to attend next year’s showcase,” said Ryan, who along with the other goalies, was wearing a red jersey to make it easy for college coaches to notice him and the nearly 30 other boys and girls goalies in attendance. “There was a lot of competition among the goalies this year and there are a lot more talented kids being attracted each year. 

“It’s a great exposure event, because you see the college coaches are watching. Most of all, it’s just good to get out, play and have some fun.”

Make sure to follow Prep Soccer Report on Facebook, Instagram (@PrepSoccerReport) and Twitter (@Report_Soccer) for the latest updates on the college recruiting scene. #PrepSoccerReport