Dundee-Crown midfielder Roland Dearborn always believed he could play soccer at the Division I level. It just came down to a waiting game.
D-C athletics announced on Twitter last week that Dearborn will be continuing his career at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb next season. A four-year varsity player at D-C, Dearborn said he is walking on the team at NIU.
Dearborn chose NIU over D-I options at Eastern Illinois and Western Illinois, as well as NCAA Division III programs at Loras College and Elmhurst College. NIU coaches spotted him at a game last season and invited him to a camp on campus in January.
“The coach said he needed quick attackers,” Dearborn said of NIU coach Ryan Swan. “Since he saw me at the camp, he said that I was pretty quick, and he said he really liked that about me. I’d fit perfectly into the team with how they’re going to try to play in the next few years.”
Dearborn, who plays club ball with Chicago Rush Soccer Club, showcased that speed in his four years at D-C. He led the Chargers in goals during each of the past two seasons, including 16 goals in 2019. He was a Northwest Herald Boys Soccer All-Area first-team selection in 2019, as well.
D-C won three regional championships in Dearborn’s four years, the first three regional titles in program history. The Chargers almost won a sectional championship in 2019, too, losing in penalty kicks against Jacobs in the sectional final.
“He’s been a centerpiece of everything we’ve done over the last four years,” D-C coach Rey Vargas said. “He’s grown into a great player, and we’re definitely going to be missing him next year.
“He’s dynamic in the attacking game. He’s quick and moves the ball quickly. He plays smart with the ball, and he created a lot of scoring opportunities for us.”
Dearborn will be the second D-I talent to come out of the Chargers' boys soccer program in recent years, following 2018 D-C grad Julian Ajroja, who now plays at Michigan State. Vargas said he was surprised it took Dearborn so long to land at a college.
“He’s got the ability to play at the next level, for sure,” Vargas said. “I’m happy for him, and I think it’s just about him taking advantage of the opportunity that he’s getting.”
At 5-foot-8, Dearborn isn’t the biggest player on the field, but he makes up for it with that speed and quickness.
“Since I was young, I was pretty fast,” Dearborn said. “I just started to form it more into how I can use it to play soccer and how I had an advantage over other people. … That’s the thing about soccer, you don’t have to be the tallest or the strongest. You can have your own way of playing, and it can work out for you.”
Dearborn plans to study kinesiology at NIU.