The story of No. 4 freshman CJ Fodrey and his “god-given” soccer ability

Aztec breakout star CJ Fodrey and his father describe CJ’s introduction and love for soccer

Freshman+CJ+Fodrey+has+a+quiet+moment+on+the+Snapdragon+Stadium+field+following+a+2-0+loss+versus+the+University+of+Washington+on+Sept.+29%2C+2022.

Jessica Parga

Freshman CJ Fodrey has a quiet moment on the Snapdragon Stadium field following a 2-0 loss versus the University of Washington on Sept. 29, 2022.

by Morgan Prickett, Sports Editor

After getting his first taste of what many call the beautiful game, from a young age, it was clear to San Diego State University’s breakout freshman forward, CJ Fodrey, that soccer was his destiny. 

“When he was four years old our neighbors were taking their kids to just start playing soccer and he was an absolute natural. After two weeks they had him playing up two years,” Ron Fodrey, CJ’s dad, said. Ron acknowledged that CJ’s mother, Natasha Fodrey, was the primary figure supporting his soccer career, but she was unavailable to be sourced for this story.

Following his first action with the ball at his feet, Ron wanted CJ to give baseball a shot — a sport much more familiar to Ron who played baseball and football at UC Riverside. Tee Ball sufficed as CJ’s first whack of the bat, yet short lived it proved to be.

“He went out there at my urging and played a whole game and said ‘dad I don’t like it, it’s boring.’” Ron said. “So I said ‘what do you wanna do’ and he said ‘soccer’, and it’s been soccer ever since.”

Fodrey, who is currently No. 4 in Top Drawer Soccer’s national freshman rankings and earned PAC-12 Freshman of the year, plays like he was born on the pitch, not the mound. 

The San Jose-born freshman has shot up the local ranks since moving to San Diego around the age of two. Fodrey went from a youth player for local clubs such as the San Diego Surf, Nomads and Albion to playing for LA Galaxy’s Academy in 2019. Fodrey was then offered a tryout by San Diego’s very own professional soccer club, the San Diego Loyal of the United Soccer League (USL). Fodrey impressed during his tryouts and eventually signed a USL academy contract with the Loyal late in 2020, going on to score his first-and-only goal for the club during a preseason match against the LA Galaxy, his former club. Playing for the Loyal was a big step for Fodrey, at just 17 he was playing alongside established players around the peak of their careers.

“Every single day it was a professional environment, you’re playing with grown men and guys that are trying to feed their kids,” CJ said.

After one year with the Loyal, Fodrey joined the Aztecs and has been tearing up the college scene ever since. The freshman led the Aztecs with seven goals and four assists on the season and his 18 points made him the highest scoring Aztec freshman since at least 2000. Fodrey also earned a spot on Top Drawer Soccer’s National Team of the Week after his goal and assist against the University of San Diego on Oct. 15.

While racking in the statistics, Fodrey also makes sure to have a little bit of fun. You can find him celebrating goals in all types of ways, one of his most iconic so far was when he celebrated a go-ahead goal against Berekley by grabbing a set of pom poms from a cheerleader and began dancing towards the crowd.

“I like to have fun with it, obviously at the right times like we were up 2-1 at that point,” CJ said. “Most of the time it’s in the moment but sometimes the guys talk about celebrations that you can do like that specific one (the cheerleader celebration) we planned on doing earlier in the season.”

Soccer has grown tremendously in the United States since Fodrey was born, providing loads of opportunities for inspired athletes.

“I didn’t even know how to spell soccer,” Ron joked. “Back in my day soccer wasn’t very big at all.”

Even CJ’s mother Natasha wasn’t familiar with soccer as her father, Chuck Muelhaupt, who grew up playing football and even played three seasons in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills in the 1960s — perhaps displaying where CJ’s athleticism stems from. Yet she still sacrificed her time to support her son’s passion.

Despite knowing little about the sport, Ron and Natasha pushed CJ , even when he was at the top of his game — which is quite often.

Freshman CJ Fodrey attacks the ball during the Aztecs 2-0 loss versus the University of Washington on Sept. 29, 2022.
Freshman CJ Fodrey attacks the ball during the Aztecs 2-0 loss versus the University of Washington on Sept. 29, 2022. (Jessica Parga)

“For some reason he had a God given ability to control the ball and score,” Ron said. “His second season he was scoring so many goals, it kind of got bad to the point where I made him a deal for every time he scored a goal he got 50 cents but every time he got an assist he got a dollar.” 

Fodrey has always been in love with soccer, which inadvertently rubbed off on the people around him.

“We’d be out jumping the fence in Coronado middle school,” Ron said. “Me, in my older self, jumping a fence to go kick a ball and then getting kicked out by the police.” 

At times that’s what it took for CJ to play the sport he loves, nothing is going to get in his way as his eyes are set on going pro. “That’s always been a dream of mine,” CJ said.

With the form Fodrey is in currently, that dream is within arms reach as he sits as one of the highest ranked freshman in the country today.

“He’s living his dream which is all any parent can ask for their child,” Ron said. “He’s been passionate about soccer from the very beginning.”

 

Editor’s Note: On Nov. 9, 2022, this story was published in our print issue. Additional information and CJ Fodrey’s stats have been updated.