Movin’ to SoFlo: Inter Miami Rookies

Dylan Nealis, Greek Moving Series: Rookies

From hot college prospects to professional players on the Major League Soccer stage, Good Greek Moving presents the transition of two Inter Miami rookies to life as professional footballers in South Florida.

The past months have been quite eventful for Drake Callender, Inter Miami rookie goalkeeper who previously starred for the University of California, Berkeley, and Dylan Nealis, right back who captained and led the team to a national championship during his time as a Georgetown University player. 

“I was still in my fall season with Cal Berkeley, we had just flown in to Seattle and there was a voice message on my phone. The message was from Paul [McDonough] and he said that it was possible that my rights were going to be traded to Inter Miami. It was pretty surreal,” Callender detailed about how his journey to becoming an Inter Miami player began last October. 

“MLS sent a camera crew to my hometown and we set them up in a restaurant. I had family and friends there that all came to watch.” Nealis shared about the day he was picked third overall by the Club in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft. “When I heard my name get called it was a moment of relief, I was very excited.”

What followed, was a series of life-changing events. AfterCallender’s trade from the San Jose Earthquakes to Inter Miami was made official in November 2019, the goalkeeper wrapped up his fall semester of college and moved back home for the holidays before taking off for South Florida in the early stages of 2020.

“I pretty much came with like two or three suitcases, my backpack and just a couple books. I didn’t have much,” said the 22-year-old Sacramento native. “Another thing was the mindset that I was bringing with me. I remember thinking that I had to step up my game mentally and make sure that when the time comes when we start to get on the field, that it’s business time.”

Meanwhile, Nealis packed up his belongings up north in his native Massapequa, N.Y., and flew down merely one week after the 2020 SuperDraft in January. 

“The first thing I made sure I packed was probably a bathing suit, I couldn’t believe that I was officially living in Florida. Coming from the cold from New York and the winters, it’s nice to come down here and enjoy the warm weather,” said the 21-year-old right back.

Following their arrivals in South Florida as professional players, preseason was just around the corner, and they soon found themselves concentrated in a hotel in Fort Lauderdale alongside their new teammates Inter Miami teammates. 

“I was down at the lobby getting coffee and I saw Luis Robles. I was thinking I should probably introduce myself. I remember I was nervous, like super nervous, and I go to shake his hand. It was like this awkward hand thing, I just completely fumbled the handshake. I knew Luis’ first impression of me was ‘this guy doesn’t know how to shake a hand’,” recalled Callender while laughing about his initial jitters. 

Out on the field though, those nerves were nowhere to be seen from the rookies as they hit the ground running, learning from the veterans in the team and working hard to adapt to the intensity of the professional level. Nealis made his debut for Inter Miami in the Club’s second MLS match in history, playing the full 90 minutes against D.C.United. On the other hand, Callender continues working tirelessly while he awaits his professional debut. 

“The D.C. United game was fun. When I first stepped on the field, it was definitely more intense than college, but I’d say I was prepared and I handled myself quite well,” stated Nealis. 

“I know my time will come and I know I have to have some patience. I have to continue to push myself and keeping that flame going within me so that when the time is right I can be ready to go right there”, said Callender.

In regards to settling into life in South Florida, the Club made sure that the rookies were well-taken care off. Both Callender and Nealis moved into their new apartments in South Florida shortly before the season’s suspension, marking a big step in their adult lives. 

“In general, the whole aspect of living on your own was really exciting. The team put me in contact with a realtor and helped me out and showed me some locations that might be best,” said Nealis. 

“I had never lived outside of northern California before and this was my first time really living on my own. A bunch of the team’s staff really helped me to get settled down and that really meant a lot,” added Callender. 

Despite not being able to explore as much as they would prefer, the Inter Miami goalkeeper and right back shared their delight at the diverse and friendly culture that is prevalent both in the region and at the Club, and of course, the passionate fans. 

“I couldn’t have asked for a better location or better coaching staff or support staff. The facilities in general too, world-class facilities that are brand new. Also the fans, they’ve been lacking soccer for a while so they’re very excited to be a part of this as well”, highlighted Nealis.

“I can’t wait to get to know the people more, getting integrated into the culture, learning more about Florida, and of course, experiencing all our home matches. 

“I’ve enjoyed it, there haven’t been any downsides to moving here,” concluded Callender.