Sports

Soccer standout goes pro

Tyler Witmer has found a spot with the Harrisburg Heat.

Former Temple soccer standout Tyler Witmer is uncertain of what the future has in store for him.

“I’m not really sure of my path right now,” Witmer said. “I would like to keep going after my soccer dream and see how it goes. It’s been fun so far.”

Witmer, who played his final game at Temple in November 2011, already finds himself with his third professional soccer team. After failed stints with the Harrisburg City Islanders of the United Soccer Leagues and the Panama City Beach Pirates of the U.S. Premier Development League, Witmer is back to playing in the state capital as a member of the Harrisburg Heat.

Witmer has started all three games thus far for the Heat, an expansion team that belongs to the Professional Arena Soccer League. He is currently second on the team with five points, three goals and two assists. He also leads the team with 17 shots. Witmer scored his first career professional goal on Nov. 17 against the Cincinnati Kings.

Harrisburg coach Richard Chinapoo said Witmer’s versatility pays dividends for his indoor soccer club.

“[Witmer] offered the ability to play different positions,” Chinapoo said. “He can play almost three different positions offensively. He has attributes that are useful to the indoor game.”

Witmer, a Wernersville, Pa., native, was a workhouse throughout his tenure with the Owls, managing to not miss a single game for four years. He ranks ninth all time in goals scored at Temple with 23 career tallies. Witmer’s former No. 6 has since, perhaps fittingly, been taken over by reigning Atlantic 10 Conference Rookie of the Year Jared Martinelli.

Coach Dave MacWilliams spoke highly of the skill-set Witmer brings to the table.

“Indoor might be [Witmer’s] niche,” MacWilliams said. “He has the opportunity where he can get the ball more often, and he has the ability to score.”

MacWilliams, who calls Witmer one of the best players he’s ever coached, said he believes the odds are against him to hang around in professional leagues.

“I think it’s going to be a challenge for him,” MacWilliams said. “Obviously, I’m pretty confident that [Witmer] is going to do well. But he wasn’t a kid that was drafted, so I think the challenge has become that much more difficult.”

Aside from playing soccer, Witmer also has a passion for teaching. He is on the verge of completing school at Temple, while conducting student teaching at Whittier Elementary in North Philadelphia and George Washington High School in the Northeast.

Off the field, both MacWilliams and Chinapoo have nothing but high praise for Witmer.

“[Witmer] is a very conscientious kid,” MacWilliams said. “He works incredibly hard both in the classroom and on the field.”

“His work rate is good, his attitude is good,” Chinapoo said. “He’s been nothing but respectful toward me.”

More than a full year since the last time he stepped on a soccer field as an Owl, Witmer said it’s the camaraderie of his former teammates he misses the most.

“I lived with those guys for four years,” Witmer said. “When you’re playing in the pros you get to meet a whole new group of guys and you have to start all over. So I miss having that relationship between us.”

Moving forward without the brotherhood that is Temple soccer, Witmer said his family has been there every step of the way, fully supporting him in his pursuit of a professional soccer career.

“My whole family came out to the [Cincinnati] game,” Witmer said. “My mom came down from New Hampshire. My father’s side of the family were all out there. Also, my friends from high school showed up. There was a good 30 people who came out to see me.”

Despite his recent success, Witmer said playing indoor has been a “learning experience,” but that he will look to earn an outdoor contract following the current season.

He hopes to find some stability on the professional level and, with that, a newfound sense of camaraderie – something that’s been absent from his life since last fall.

Tyler Sablich can be reached at tyler.sablich@temple.edu or on Twitter @TySablich.

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