Peter Schropp may be a lot of things.
A member of the U.S. national team. A soccer prodigy with hefty expectations and a game to live up to them. A 15-year-old high school freshman — the first freshman ever — playing varsity soccer for Omaha Creighton Prep.
But to his teammates, Schropp is just Peter.
“I think we’re all pretty sure he still wears Star Wars pajamas to bed,” Prep co-coach Tom Hoover cracks.
Maybe over a uniform and shin guards.
The 5-foot-10, 150-pound Schropp and the Class A No. 2 Junior Jays open play at the state tournament at 9 a.m. Thursday against eighth-ranked Norfolk at Creighton’s Morrison Stadium.
“It’ll almost feel like being a Creighton player a little bit,” said Schropp, a longtime CU fan.
Hoover and fellow co-coach Jim Swanson went against an unwritten Prep policy about freshmen on the varsity roster when Schropp made the Junior Jay team.
Hoover jokes that there’s a new standard when it comes to how they view freshman playing. A “Schropp Rule,” of sorts.
“No freshmen on Prep varsity unless you’re on the national team,” Hoover said with a laugh. “Swanny and I are fairly traditionalist. As stubborn as we may be, we’re not that foolish to see that this opportunity for Peter was that exceptional.”
There haven’t been too many like Schropp. A talent that comes around every decade or two, a couple of area coaches said.
What exactly makes him different?
It starts with maturity. Physically he’s ahead of his age. He can handle the rough and tumble game of high school soccer. In fact, he enjoys it.
When you’re playing at a high level like the national team, you’re going against mainly soccer-specific players with skills centered around the game, Schropp said.
When you’re playing Omaha South on a Saturday, Papillion-La Vista South the following Monday and Omaha Westside the night after that, you’re getting a steady mix of football and basketball players who embrace contact.
“It’s kind of like a different game,” he said. “It’s a lot more physical. I think it’s a lot more demanding on your body. There’s big guys, athletes, out here.”
That fact may be exactly why this season has worked out so well for Schropp. Coaches on his under-14 and under-15 national teams told him that he needed to step up to another level. He needed to be challenged more.
His dad, Toby, and an uncle were standouts at Omaha Westside and in college at Georgetown. Toby knew that a step up was needed.
So the family debated on where Peter would spend his freshman year.
“There was a question if he was going to play high school, play at an academy in another city or what exactly was best,” Toby Schropp said. “The Prep experience has really been great. He loves playing with the guys.”
Prep, which had just come off an unbeaten 2011 and was loaded again for another run, presented Schropp with an opportunity to be a kid while getting a man’s education on the pitch.
And there aren’t typically many groups with that much talent that welcome a decorated and accomplished 13-year-old with open arms.
“It was a great fit,” Peter Schropp said.
Hoover said after talking to some of the seniors on his team, it was evident that winning was much more important to them.
“To a person they know soccer talent,” Hoover said. “And when they know soccer talent, they’ll speak up. They spoke up.”
Schropp made an instant impact. He stepped into a starting role very early and has given the Junior Jays a versatile piece in an already talented midfield. And he’s not just contributing with his play, Swanson said.
“He’s obviously a skilled soccer player, but we’ve got other skilled soccer players,” Swanson said. “He makes our team better in lots of ways. He just improved immensely from the beginning of the year. He’s grown a lot. It’s very impressive.”
College coaches from coast to coast are sure to clamor for Schropp within the next couple of years.
The drive to reach the next level will probably warrant a move from Nebraska, Schropp said. He called it a “pretty big possibility,” that he wouldn’t play four seasons at Prep.
But that’s down the road. He’s got a few more games in that Junior Jay uniform this season.
“It’s one thing to represent the U.S. and stuff,” he said. “But it’s great to represent your school.”
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