Georgia Gwinnett College’s Rene Enang dribbles up the field during a game this season in Lawrenceville. (Special photo Tom Grason)
LAWRENCEVILLE — Rene Enang sure knows how to make an impression.
A defender for his entire college soccer career, the second-year player for Georgia Gwinnett College found himself playing attacking-midfielder by the fourth game of this season out of need.
“We were injured,” Grizzlies head coach Steve DeCou said. “It was more a necessity than anything else. Some of the other recruits we had brought in could fill in better defensively on (Enang’s) side of the ball. We were struggling to score goals. It was, ‘Who can we get in there?’ Rene’s athleticism, he’ll cover every blade of grass if we let him.”
Playing against Oklahoma City in a tournament in Siloam Springs, Ark., Enang showed just how athletic. Early in the second half, a misplayed header from an Oklahoma City defenseman shot a ball straight in the air and as it came down, Enang unleashed a bicycle kick to break the scoreless tie.
“That was my very first goal in the history of Georgia Gwinnett College,” Enang said. “I didn’t know what to say in that moment. Since then I have kept working harder and harder each practice.”
Highlights of the video hit YouTube and have gotten more than 10,000 views.
“If you are going to start it, that’s the best way,” DeCou said. “He’s scored some great ones this year. He just works so hard, that’s what’s helped us a lot.”
A native of Cameroon, Enang came to the United States on a student visa intent on studying exercise science and eventually sports medicine. He started in Las Vegas at New Mexico Highlands University, but after seeing the women’s soccer team play dreamed of a college soccer career for himself. He started looking at schools and landed at Georgia Military College, a junior college where he was captain for his two seasons.
“(My coach) told me how I could go further playing college soccer after graduating from a junior college,” Enang said. “He told me about Georgia Gwinnett College and that it was a new program.”
Enang also looked at Southern Polytechnic, but the school didn’t offer exercise science and Enang said he hopes to eventually open a sports medicine clinic in Cameroon.
Plus he was getting plenty of attention from DeCou.
“I knew as junior college coach and I watched him play and said, ‘We’ve got to get this kid,’” DeCou said. “He fits everything we want.”
Enang then became the first recruit for the start-up program. The turf field Enang practices and plays on now was “a forest” and the athletic facility where he studies and works out he knew only from drawings.
“I just had that feeling and that interest to play for Georgia Gwinnett College, Enang said. “Not knowing how the school was going to look like, now the facilities are going to look like, how the players are going to look like in the first season. I just had that commitment from the beginning that when I left Georgia Military College I was going to Georgia Gwinnett College.
“I have enjoyed watching everything change in my time here.”
From the back line to the front line, Enang’s changed as much. He didn’t slow down after the Oklahoma City goal. He is second on the 11-4 Grizzlies with seven goals, trailing the team leader, Martin Lugo, by one.
“He’s the glue right now with this group,” DeCou said. “He’s not a captain, but he’s kind of the father figure.”