By Jeff Batt | firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos By Logan Bowles
Joseph Toby has loved playing soccer ever since he was a child. Now the former Flagler soccer player and 2012 graduate is living out his dream of playing professional soccer after signing with the Jacksonville Armada, a NASL (North American Soccer League) club team.
Toby signed with the Armada this past August after he had a short stint with Arizona United SC. He was fortunate to get picked up by the Jacksonville Armada, where he plays in the same city as he went to high school, and only 45 minutes from Flagler College. The local experience so far has him feeling “really comfortable.”
“If you have a job, the first time it is going to be stressful, but when you get comfortable and know what you are doing, it is pretty enjoyable,” he said. “Right now I am enjoying it.”
Toby’s life hasn’t always been comfortable. He is a native of Sierra Leon, a small country in west Africa that was involved in a civil war from the early 90s until 2002. Toby experienced major turmoil in that time.
“Being a kid in a war zone and seeing dead bodies around is not a good thing,” Toby said. “I kept focused on my dream and I tried to come to America or go overseas and play soccer, so I did not let that affect me bad. My mom always tried to keep me inside and away from trouble.”
Toby emigrated from Sierra Leone to Jacksonville when he was 15. He followed in his father’s footsteps and pursued his dream of playing soccer as a profession.
It was a difficult period of adjustment coming to the United States. “I did not talk much. I was pretty shy and I just tried to keep to myself,” Toby said.
While attending high school in Jacksonville, Toby was hoping for an opportunity to play soccer at the next level. Flagler College Men’s Soccer Head Coach John Lynch eventually came to watch him in action.
“From the moment I saw him, I knew he was going to be a professional player because he had the physical ability and the drive, but was lacking mental strength,” Lynch said. “I would like to think we helped develop that part of his game.”
He ended up getting his shot at Flagler and played all four years of his collegiate career. In the end, Toby loved all that the school had to offer and he reflected on what helped him make his choice.
“I had other chances to go to other schools, but I liked the area. I wanted to go to a small school and I liked the atmosphere when I came to Flagler. People were pretty friendly,” Toby said.
As a freshman, he played in all 21 soccer matches, scored four goals, had six assists and was named Peach Belt Conference Freshman of the Year. In the following years, he was selected to the Peach Belt Conference All-Tournament Team, Daktronics First Team All-America Selection and NSCAA first-team All-Southeast Region selection (Flaglerathletics.com).
Toby feels that his collegiate career at Flagler really benefited him when he turned pro.
“Coach Lynch helped me a lot. When I was at Flagler I played forward. He taught me how to put your body in front of the attacker. I used to ball watch instead of paying attention everywhere, which is bad and Coach Lynch changed that about me,” Toby said.
He has enjoyed his experience overall so far as a professional, whether it is the traveling or playing against other players. Like any player in any sport he would be open to playing in another country or for a higher-level organization, but is happy in Jacksonville.
“I like Jacksonville,” he said. “I would like to stay here. Jacksonville has been there for me since I was 15.”