In the windup towards preseason, Backline Soccer had the opportunity to ask a few questions of Morgan Proffitt, drafted by the Chicago Red Stars in the second round of the 2017 NWSL College Draft. Proffitt was drafted out of Marquette University, where she was awarded Big East Conference Defensive Player of the Year for 2016 and named to the 2016 MAC Hermann watch list, to name just a few of her accomplishments while playing for the Golden Eagles.
Most recently, Proffitt was called into the U-23 WNT January camp.
We’re eager to see what the 2017 NWSL season has in store for Proffitt, and we can tell, she is too.
Backline Soccer [BS]: You’re only the second player from Marquette to be selected in the NSWL draft (Maegyn Kelley was drafted in 2014 by FCKC at #35 but did not make the roster). Obviously your name had been in the mix, but did you expect to be drafted so early—second pick in the second round? How did it feel? What was the first thought that went through your head when you heard your name called?
Morgan Proffitt [MP]: A few weeks prior to the draft I would not have expected to get picked in the second round. There are so many talented players in this class so I was just hoping to hear my name. I heard from coaches a few days before the draft so I was a little more confident that my name would get called, but anything can happen in the draft so had to prepared for anything. It felt so good to hear my name get called. It was almost like receiving an award for working so hard all these years. When I heard my name I was excited and relieved, but then focused on not tripping on the way to the podium.
BS: What sort of challenges do you see there being, moving from the world of NCAA soccer to professional? Or do you think your experience with the USWNT U teams over the past few years has helped to prepare you for the difference?
MP: I think one of the biggest challenges will be speed of play. The ball moves much faster and decisions are made much quicker in the NWSL. I think being a part of the U23 WNT will definitely help with that transition, but I know there will still be an adjustment.
BS: The NWSL just announced a three-year deal with A+E Networks that includes broadcasting a game a week on the Lifetime channel. What does it mean to know that the league is making the transition to television?
MP: It means the world. I am so happy to be a part of a league that is continually growing. That contract is a huge step for women’s soccer in the US. I think it is also well deserved since we have one of the best, if not the best, Women’s National team in the world. So the fact that fans can now easily watch their favorite players is so amazing. I’m excited for the opportunities it will bring!
BS: You were with the Red Stars Reserves when they won the 2015 WPSL title, what was that experience like?
MP: That experience was incredible. I went into the Reserves team really excited because I knew there would be lots of really good players on the roster. Practices were always competitive and challenging, making the drive from Milwaukee to Chicago worth it. Winning the title made all the hard work and travel worth it. We also won the final two games with 14 players in 100-degree weather. So it was really cool to overcome the odds and come together to get what we worked so hard for.
BS: Your hometown is Columbus, Indiana, just about four hours from Chicago, and you spent your college years in Milwaukee. Does it feel like the Red Stars are almost your home team, in that they’re the closest to home for you?
MP: Oh, yes, I often find myself rooting for many different Chicago teams because it’s so close to Milwaukee, I have so many friends from there, and it’s a great city. My parents are thrilled to be able to see a lot of our games this coming year. Plus, playing in Chicago for the Reserves makes it feel like home.
BS: You’re listed as a D/M and you were awarded the Big East’s Defensive Player of the Year for 2016. Is there a position you prefer?
MP: I like to cover lots of ground and win balls defensively so defensive midfield, or the “6”, is my favorite position since it allows me to do both. I am definitely willing to play anywhere, but I am most comfortable in the midfield.
BS: Your draft class is certainly the first for whom the NWSL has existed since your high school playing career. Did this have any influence on your decision to play college soccer? I.e., that there was a pro league you could play in after college? And has the NWSL’s success (being the first league to hit the four-year and beyond mark) help you decide that playing pro was an option for your future?
MP: Honestly, going into college I did not think beyond that. I felt like the NWSL was almost unreachable as a freshman. I was so focused on making an impact for Marquette that a professional career never really crossed my mind. However, as the years passed in school and the league grew, I definitely found it as an awesome opportunity if I was given the chance in the draft. I am really excited to see what other advances the league makes in the coming years.
BS: The Red Stars have one of the strongest defenses in the league. Assuming that is where you end up on the pitch, what do you think you can bring you the Red Stars’ backline?
MP: I hope to help make the backline’s jobs easier by blocking penetrating balls, winning 50/50 battles, and tracking midfielders and forwards runs. I like when a backline communicates where they want me or where they need me, so knowing how organized the Red Stars are, I am really excited to get to work with all that talent and those leaders.
BS: Do you have any pre-game rituals?
MP: Well at Marquette we pride ourselves on being ‘blue-collar,’ or hardworking and determined. So before every game we would tie a piece of blue pre-wrap around our wrists as a reminder to work hard for our team. I don’t know if I will continue with that since I do not wear pre-wrap, but I love to jam out to music before games. It could be rap, rock, or country as long as it’s loud and I am not the only one dancing and singing.
BS: Marquette played Wisconsin-Madison in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Championship. What’s it like playing against Rose Lavelle, also drafted this year?
MP: Playing Madison is always a battle. Rose actually ended up scoring the winning goal in that game (1-0). She is such a skilled player–quick on and off the ball. She also has very good field awareness so when it comes to speed of play, she is very good. I am excited to continue to play against her because she challenges me defensively.
BS: As a Milwaukee-native myself, I have to ask, what are you going to miss most about Marquette and the Milwaukee area?
MP: Cheese curds. Just kidding. That is such a tough question because there are so many things I love about Marquette and Milwaukee. I think I am going to miss the overall environment at Marquette. My team, coaches, friends, professors, advisers, and trainers are all so supportive. They really want the best for each student-athlete both academically and athletically. I have heard Chicago has a good family environment too so I am hoping that continues! When it comes to the Milwaukee-area, I am going to miss being so close to the Lake. I spent the last two summers in Milwaukee and having the combination of city and a beach/ park by the lake was perfect.