The tireless ball of energy (both on and off the field); the long locks bouncing up and down the right flank — there is nothing more synonymous with soccer in Columbus than Frankie Hejduk.
For our No. 19 moment we turn back the clock just one year, almost to the day, to the official inclusion into Columbus Crew SC's Circle of Honor of the man who made "dude" a regular part of Black & Gold lexicon.
On Sept. 20, 2014, Crew SC — then just "the Crew" — defeated the New England Revolution, 1-0, during an outstanding late-season tear for Columbus, but the result will, historically, be remembered secondarily to the ceremony that honored one of the club's true legends and cornerstones.
The ceremony had all the usual bits — a video presentation (watch it above), a framed memento for Hejduk and the unveiling of his name as a permanent piece of then Crew Stadium, now MAPFRE Stadium. In his honor, the fans let loose a series of jersey tifos, each representing one of the eight jersey's Hejduk wore for Crew SC.
And then, in order to make sure the evening was peak Hejduk, the man himself was handed the microphone. Club scribe and historian Steve Sirk remembers the night beautifully here, including a transcription of Hejduk's speech, but suffice it to say it was heartfelt, and it ended whenever Hejduk ran out of words (and song), long after the ceremony's allotted time had expired.
According to Sirk, when he later congratulated Hejduk on his memorable halftime speech, the player responded, "Why? What did I say, dude?"
Nothing could be more fitting.
Hejduk was — and is — just the second player to earn a spot in the Circle of Honor, joining Brian McBride. The two players mark, almost distinctively, the first two eras of MLS soccer in Columbus, with McBride, the club's first-ever player, suiting up until 2003, the first year Hejduk donned the yellow kit.
Hejduk began his professional career with the Tampa Bay Mutiny before playing with Bayer Leverkusen in Germany for five years. His return to the United States landed him in Columbus, and he became part and parcel with soccer in the city, retiring from the field — but not from the club — in 2010. He continues, to this day, in an ambassadorial role with CCSC.
The right back made 147 appearances and scored seven goals for Columbus, captaining the 2008 MLS Cup-winning side and playing on the Supporter's Shield winners in 2004, 2008 and 2009. He was an MLS All-Star every season from 2003-2008.
But more than the appearances, goals, victories or trophies, Frankie Hejduk was the heart and soul of soccer in Columbus.