The stories that stick with us: Words of thanks from a high school kid gone pro

  • Drew Conner

    Drew Conner

  • Chicago Fire's Drew Conner (18) moves the ball past Carlos Rivas, left, during an MLS game in Orlando.

    Chicago Fire's Drew Conner (18) moves the ball past Carlos Rivas, left, during an MLS game in Orlando. John Raoux/Associated Press File Photo, 2017

  • A tweet by former Chicago Fire soccer player Drew Conner.

    A tweet by former Chicago Fire soccer player Drew Conner.

  • Orrin Schwarz

    Orrin Schwarz

 
 
Updated 10/4/2021 8:23 AM

When I announced on social media in August 2020 that I was taking over as editor of the Daily Herald Business Ledger, I heard from many of the contacts I'd made in my 21 years in the Daily Herald sports department covering high school sports and pro soccer.

I knew I'd had some effect on people, judging by the number of times I'd been photographed by a parent while interviewing a kid after a high school game. Coaches often thanked me for covering their team and told me how much it meant to see their programs and athletes recognized in their community.

 

But a tweet Drew Conner sent caught me completely by surprise.

Conner, a Cary-Grove High School graduate, was a member of the Chicago Fire's academy program when he used up his eligibility at the University of Wisconsin. I didn't know him then, only getting to do so after he became a professional soccer player.

My sources told me he and Joey Calistri of Lake Forest were good candidates to be signed to homegrown contracts with the Fire first team.

So I wrote about it. And sure enough, the Fire signed Conner and Calistri to homegrown contracts out of the academy. Apparently, my story resonated with Conner.

I remember where I was when I read his tweet. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there wasn't much going on in the sports world, so I helped out on a Saturday morning by covering a recruitment presentation at the Elgin Police Department. It was the day after I sent my tweet about my move to business journalism.

Afterward I went to my car and checked email and Twitter.

"Fact: If Orrin didn't cover #cf97," Conner tweeted, referring to the Fire hashtag, "they wouldn't have signed me. After (coach and general manager Frank) Yallop, the new staff didn't know me and had 0 interest in homegrowns. He wrote articles speculating if they would sign me or not, & asked staff questions about my future with the club. He put me on the radar."

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Chills ran down my spine. Tears collected in my eyes (and they're back now that I'm writing this).

I hadn't known Conner before he signed, but I got to know him in his three seasons as a Fire defensive midfielder, when he played in 32 games, starting 13. He was fun to watch, bringing energy and creativity to the field whenever he got the chance. It was fun to see another local kid succeed.

But it's his tweet that means the most to me.

• Business Ledger Editor Orrin Schwarz has worked for the Daily Herald since 1999.

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