When Tanner Tessmann made the decision to pass up a chance to play for college football powerhouse Clemson in order to become a professional soccer player, the question immediately became whether the Alabama native made the right decision.
After making an impressive professional debut in the heart of the FC Dallas midfield, including delivering an assist in in Saturday’s 2-0 win against the Philadelphia Union, Tessmann showed just why his career decision was the right one.
Starting as a defensive midfielder in Luchi Gonzalez’s midfield, Tessmann played like a seasoned veteran, rather than the rookie homegrown playr in his first pro match. He recorded a game-high 11 recoveries to help FC Dallas beat a tough Union side featuring U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder Brenden Aaronson.
“Look at young man Tanner, just coming into the picture here in preseason and earning the opportunity tonight and taking advantage of it and showing composure and the confidence of a veteran, so really proud of him,” Gonzalez said of Tessman after the match. “And I’m proud of the group, because the group embraced him, and helped him, supported him, believed in him, and they showed it, and that’s why they’re there for each other.”
Tessman partnered with Brazilian midfielder Thiago Santos to help limit the Union’s ability to create in central midfield, showing off an impressive ability to cover ground defensively, while also being able to contribute in the attacking third, as evidenced by his lay-off pass to Paxton Pomykal for FC Dallas’ second goal.
“It felt great. Those guys behind me, they had my back, so for me it was just a normal game,” Tessmann said. “The fans were great, they gave us energy, and we got the win.”
The godson of Clemson University football coach Dabo Swinney, Tessmann had committed to play soccer and potentially serve as a kicker for the football team at Clemson before making the decision to turn pro and sign a homegrown player deal with FC Dallas, a deal he signed just last Thursday.
Tessmann had never actually played American football before, but his relationship with Swinney, and considerable athletic ability, made being part of Clemson’s football team a real possibility.
“This guy is an amazing athlete – I mean amazing,” Swinney told media last December. “He is a potential (NFL quarterback) Deshaun Watson-type guy for soccer. To have the opportunity to have a guy who can come and play both sports and do it at such a high level is unbelievable.”
Ultimately, Tessmann chose to pursue his professional soccer dream, and joins an FC Dallas side with a reputation for developing young talent and giving young players first-team opportunities. Gonzalez wasted no time giving Tessmann his first chance to impress, and the 18-year-old fit right in, showing none of the jitters you might expect from a teenage rookie making his pro debut.
A U.S. youth national team player eligible for the U.S. Under-20 national team, Tessmann developed in the FC Dallas academy after, much like fellow Alabama natives Chris Richards and Brandon Servania.
Tessmann will face plenty of competition for playing time in the stacked FC Dallas midfield, which also includes U.S. youth national team midfielders Servania and Edwin Cerillo, but a pre-season injury to Servania helped open the door for Tessmann to start in the season opener, and his performance will make it difficult for Gonzalez to take him out of the lineup for next week’s match against the Montreal Impact.