Just like every other young kid who grew up dreaming of one day becoming a professional athlete, Brett Bebej was stuck between sports. Brett had to decide between three: Baseball, soccer and basketball.
But unlike most children who follow the paths or advice of their parents, Brett went a different route than his father, Jeff.
“Actually, me and my brother were the first ones to play (soccer) in my family,” Brett said. “My dad was a baseball player.”
Brett and his younger brother Kyle, now in his first year at Marquette, grew up in a competitive household because of Jeff’s influence.
Brett’s choice of soccer over the other two sports was pretty easy.
“I was definitely the best at it,” Bebej said. “I was kinda smaller when I was younger. I was one of the fast kids, the leadoff guy, but I didn’t really see a future in it. Soccer was always the best option.”
Bebej has been a huge asset to IU, but you wouldn’t know it if you watched him play. His quiet nature and versatility have helped himself, as he ended up at one of the sport's most prestigious schools, Indiana, proving that his chosen path of soccer truly was the right one. It goes both ways, as Indiana has benefitted from Bebej’s adaptability and quieter leadership role.
Bebej, a three-star recruit according to Top Drawer Soccer, played with the Chicago Fire Academy and led the team in minutes played his final two seasons.
“(Chicago Fire Academy) was good for me because I guess we weren’t the most successful academy team,” Bebej said. But he did adapt to a system which was to “play out of the back, no matter what.”
While Bebej got a taste of what an MLS playstyle is like, he also had to adapt to the collegiate game at Indiana, which he found out quickly wasn’t the same.
“Coming here, it’s a little bit different,” Bebej said. “So, I took a lot of those technical abilities that I had from the Fire and brought it here. It did help me a lot. Obviously I had to change some things when I got here, but I’m glad I was a part of that.”
Although there was a steep learning curve for Bebej adjusting from the Fire Academy to Indiana, one man on the team made his transition not as difficult: Roman Celentano.
“Most importantly, (Roman) is a great guy, and so easy to play with,” Bebej said. “I mean, I didn’t have to worry too much when a shot was getting past me.”
Bebej would soon enough be playing in front of Celentano. He saw only some time on the pitch as a freshman, but eventually made his way up the ranks.
“Starting at year one, I was more of a guy just to fill in the holes of the team,” Bebej said. “I didn’t get a lot of minutes, but just did the job when I was put in.”
Little did Brett know, he would soon enough be playing a lot of minutes in his sophomore season, when longtime left back Spencer Glass suffered a season-ending injury against Michigan in March of the delayed 2020-21 season.
“I had to step up really quick, and took it on pretty well…we made a good run that year,” Bebej said, referring to IU’s run to the National Championship game in the spring of 2021.
When asked about his favorite moment in his career, his answer was easy: Celebrating the Herbert Endeley goal in the semifinal against Pittsburgh, the only goal in the match.
Not only did he have to step up on the field as a player, he had to increase his role vocally as well.
“I’d say the first couple years I was more of a leader on the ball, kinda just did my job, but more vocal and communication and helping the guys around me has been one of my bigger steps these last couple years,” Bebej said.
But his development as a leader was much more challenging than his role as a player.
“I am not really a big talker,” Bebej said. “Coach can vouch for me. I am not a screamer or anything, but he really got me to really talk and demand things from my teammates.”
As nice as it is to have a natural-born leader who has a booming voice one is almost terrified of, a leader by example is just as, if not more important, considering actions speak louder than words. Bebej would definitely be categorized as a leader by example, as evidenced by the fact that he can play a variety of positions. It’s gotten to the point where his head coach, Todd Yeagley, has dubbed him the “Swiss Army knife” of the team.
“(Bebej) just shows how important and versatile he is to our team,” Yeagley said. “Everywhere we put him, he’s been really good.”
Bebej knows full well that’s the nickname that has been given to him, and he embraces that.
“I played in the middle when the coaches needed me, and then obviously left back my sophomore year, and now I’m kind of left-back, right-back, center-back, whatever,” Bebej said. Coach trusts me in those spots so that’s what drives me.”
With everyone in today’s world trying to express themselves with their fashion statements, TikToks, etc., having someone who is flexible, easy to work with, and team-first isn’t all that easy, but Bebej checks all of those boxes.
Bebej focuses more on the team’s performance rather than his, and although he’s scored a pair of goals already this season, he doesn’t usually appear in the box score, something he personally likes.
“I am not on the stat sheet a lot but that’s kinda how I like it,” Bebej said. “Under the radar a little bit, and just gets the job done.”
When asked how he wants to be remembered by his teammates, Bebej’s answer was simple: Reliable, both on and off the field.
With his progression both on and off the pitch over his four years at IU, Bebej now has his sights set on fulfilling his dream, one many kids hope for but never reach: Play professionally.
“That’s my goal,” Bebej said. “I think I should be able to somewhere.”
That might be his goal for the future, but the focus is on the current task at hand: win a Big Ten and NCAA Championship.
With Bebej’s cool, calm and collected presence, the Cream and Crimson could be crowned champions in the coming weeks.