WAPPINGERS FALLS, NY – Roy C. Ketcham High School shows love for Tyler Adams.
A trophy box next to the gym shows his Red Bulls jersey. The principal has a signed photo of Adam’s graduation in his office.
The midfielder’s father even greets me in a Leeds United hoodie on the day I happen to be visiting school.
At just 23, Adams is the USMNT captain at a World Cup as Friday’s big clash with England approaches.
His rise was impressive to those who knew him in his youth.
“I still get dizzy watching Tyler play,” said Matthew Paino, an Adams family friend and also a history teacher.
“I’m intimidated because here’s this boy I saw walking the halls of Ketcham eating chicken nuggets out of a cafeteria and now he’s playing against Liverpool on TV? I try to watch every single one of his games and it’s surreal.’
“He’s Tyler,” adds Principal David Seipp. “He doesn’t want to be above everyone else, he just wants to be himself. It’s incredible, it’s surreal…because he’s a local and he’s this world famous person.
While Adam’s Ketcham degree five years ago may feel like an eternity away, that time has only grown his reputation in Dutchess County.
As the midfielder has risen through the ranks of the footballing world, his ties with Ketcham feel even more important.
“Everyone comes up and says, ‘How is he? What’s going on?’” his father Darryl Sullivan said. “It’s just a big part of everyone’s life.”
(Note: Sullivan is Adam’s stepfather, but he refers to him as his father and his three sons as his brothers. His biological father is not in his life.)
Adam’s high school experience took sacrifices — and not just from him.
From the age of 16, Adams balanced a professional football career with his schoolwork, as it was at that age that he was first signed with Red Bulls II.
Bridging these two worlds was a task that required a concerted effort.
The teachers worked with Adams, who attended two or three classes in the mornings before going to practice, to keep him up to date on the lessons.
His parents would frequently drive him the 75 miles to the Red Bulls training ground in New Jersey, even after he started playing for the Red Bulls first team.
“I was exhausted,” Sullivan said.
And Adams himself had to catch up on some schoolwork outside of the classroom as he somehow managed to focus on his studies while proving to be a mainstay of the Red Bulls.
“Everyone was great, I don’t know if Tyler would have gotten his diploma otherwise,” said his mother Melissa Russo, laughing.
“Because they really put in as much effort as Tyler did to make sure he got all the stuff he needs for testing and all that stuff.”
Adams had a good group of friends, did his homework, and visited Smoothie King and Chipotle with his brothers.
But most kids don’t have “National Honor Society” and “MLS Starter” on their resumes at the same time.
“I’m sure he didn’t feel like a real high school kid,” said Paino, who also taught Adams.