The path to a professional soccer career can be long and demanding, if you take the conventional route. In Europe, your formal training can start at a very young age. Perhaps you make it into an academy. From there, maybe you'll work your way into the reserves, perhaps eventually a senior team, but as is the case in any profession that demands elite skills, only the outliers survive.
Hauke Brueckner, however, has defined a new path. He tried the old one, eventually playing 10 matches in Germany's 2. Bundesliga in 2002-03. But his career didn't take off, and eventually he moved into a front office position with his club, becoming a St. Pauli press officer.
Now that move has given Brueckner a chance at first division football. Faced with an injury crisis, St. Pauli head coach Holger Stanislawski has drafted Brueckner, 30, into the team. With only four defenders healthy for Saturday's match against Hannover, Brueckner looks set to dress for a Bundesliga match.
It would be shocking if Brueckner plays. You would think any other active player would be a better emergency replacement. And Stanislawski could always change to three at the back.
Nevertheless, Brueckner's unique chance at first division football could serve as a lesson for all of us failed soccer players. Instead of bemoaning a lack of natural ability, we could find some internship with our favorite club, get some (any) job with the team, and walk around in our warm ups, wearing that overeager, unforgettable face the naive go-getter adorns in all those small town-to-big city comedies.
Brueckner has real professional experience, so he probably didn't need to be a Rudy, but given Stanislawski's motivation, Brueckner's playing days may be irrelevant. St. Pauli was desperate, and Hauke was in the right place.
Who knows? Maybe there are some other right place, right times for this sentimental rec leaguer.