Chris Wey is such a popular teacher at Garden City Elementary School in Indianapolis that students ask for his autograph.
"They were excited for me, saying 'Now you're rich,'" Wey said of the reception he received when it was announced on the school's p.a. that he made the Indy Eleven, the newest addition to the North American Soccer League.
"I had to explain to them that this was by no means an end game for me," Wey said, "but it's a great opportunity. I'm at a point of my life where things are going well, so I might as well give it a final go (at a pro career) and see what comes of it."
Wey played four varsity soccer seasons for Munster High School (2004 graduate) where he helped the Mustangs reach the regional finals three time. He continued his career at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and played briefly for the FC Indiana of the Premier Soccer League and the Indy Elite of the Professional Arena Soccer League before both teams disbanded.
"I played for some local men's teams after that," Wey said. "They were in highly competitive recreational leagues. We have a lot of good soccer players in this area, guys who played in college ... even some former professionals."
The NASL is a 13-team league with several Canadian teams. Among professional leagues based in the United States, it's ranked second below Major League Soccer.
When the NASL announced the formation of the Indy Eleven for the 2014 spring season, the 27-year-old outside midfielder decided to throw his hat in the ring.
"They first invited 36 local players for a series of tryouts," Wey said. "Later, they started bringing in former MLS players, foreign players and other NASL players whose contracts expired with their former teams.
"That's when it got intense."
After the final round of tryouts in October, Wey waited patiently for more than two months before learning he made the team on Dec. 11.
Wey assured his students he's keeping his day job. He also will continue to coach for the Westside United Futbol Club. Last season, Wey was named "Travel Coach of the Year" by Indiana Soccer.
"I'm sure I could juggle my schedule and still coach," said Wey, who is engaged to be married this summer. "We have some great assistant coaches (at Westside United), and I'm sure they could fill in for me if needed."
In addition to playing midfield, Wey can morph into a hybrid defender.
"That's an area the game has changed lately," Wey said. "Fullbacks are pushing up and attacking more."
Wey, who also was an assistant coach for Avon High School's girls state championship team, said the game also has changed amid the prep and youth club scenes.
"When I played high school soccer, it was unheard of for someone to give up a chance for play for their school to concentrate more on club soccer," said Wey, who played for NWI United while growing up in the region. "But it's like what AAU basketball has become. You have a much better chance being seen and attracting interest from college coaches playing elite club soccer than you do playing high school."