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Brennon McDermott’s arrival at his first trainings with Rochester New York FC looked a bit different than his teammates. 

His parents dropped him off.

“It was pretty weird,” McDermott said. “You’re getting out of your parents’ car, and grown men are getting out of their cars. It was just funny training with them after that.”

Thursday’s practice marked a first for the 16-year-old McDermott. He actually drove himself --and some teammates - to practice for the first time.  He just got his driver’s license about a month ago and says the freedom it offers him is “great.”

It was one more first in a long list over the last week for McDermott. On Thursday he saw his name on RNY FC’s team sheet for the first time. He also made his first appearance in MLS Next Pro. 

It was a moment he’s been looking forward to since the first time he kicked a soccer ball.

“I grew up going to Rhinos’ games,” McDermott said.  “So it was always dream of mine to play in Rochester at the highest level. And it just felt great to be able to play in front of my friends and family and coaches were all there to support me.”

He was quick to credit his family for pushing him to get to that moment. 

“I think my dad was probably the biggest reason why I was able to grow so much playing soccer,” McDermott said. “Him and my younger brother were always helping me, always training with me. I think the three of us always help each other to get better.”

McDermott’s ties to the RNY FC program didn’t just begin last Thursday, however. He grew up playing in the Empire United Soccer Academy in Rochester and stuck around when it became the official youth program of RNY FC.

When McDermott checked in as a defensive midfielder last Thursday it was a big deal for the program as well. His appearance last Thursday made him the first homegrown player to play for the senior team. 

RNY FC Manager Bruno Baltazar said having a player graduate from the academy is proof the system is working.

“A really important part of the philosophy is to give the feeling to the Rochester kids that there is a path to the professional level,” Baltazar said. “I hope that Brennan gives that sense to the younger kids, to the parents.”

Baltazar adds that Brennan has shown he belongs at the professional level.

“Brennan is here not just because he is from Empire, it’s because he’s a talented kid with big potential.” Baltazar said. “He has the talent to add quality to our team.” 

Baltazar and the team have welcomed McDermott at training this season. Baltazar says that he brings something different to the practice pitch.

“He gives this boost of a younger energy to the team,” Baltazar said. “The guys welcomed him really well.”

McDermott says he has largely avoided the pressure that comes with being the first academy player to play for RNY FC. But when the moment finally arrived on last Thursday, he couldn’t keep the jitters away completely.

“I didn't think I was going to be that nervous because usually I'm fine with nerves,” McDermott said. “But when I started the warmup and when coach finally told me to go put my jersey on, that's when the nerves were kicking a little. But once I touched the ball for the first time they went away pretty quickly.”

The work isn’t done for McDermott and he knows it. A phrase he picked up over at Empire has helped him keep this all in perspective.

“Stay hungry and humble,” McDermott said. “I’m just focused on playing my part here.”

One way he’s stayed humble is by remembering where he came from. The moments when he fell in love with soccer.

“When you’re playing when you’re four, five six, it’s sort of a big scrum,” McDermott said with a smile. “I used to wait for the ball to sneak out and I’d always just score.”

While he’s checked off a lot of firsts, McDermott hopes there’s plenty more ahead. A first goal for RNY FC would mean the most to him. 

“I would go absolutely nuts,” McDermott said. “I’d rip my shirt off if it was late in the game. I’d be ecstatic.”