Derrick Etienne, Jr. has enjoyed some interesting times, while standing on the sidelines of Red Bull Arena. (Michael Lewis/FrontRowSoccer.com)

By Michael Lewis

Front Row Soccer Editor

Derrick Etienne, Jr. is just following a local soccer tradition that is decades old.

While growing up in New Jersey, John Harkes in the eighties, was a ball boy for the Cosmos. We all knew what transpired with Harkes as he became a professional player on both sides of the Atlanta, a member of the U.S. national team, playing in two World Cups while enjoying a Hall of Fame career.

Today, we have the 20-year-old forward, a member of the team who was a Red Bulls’ ball boy in 2010, which just so happened to be the grand opening of Red Bull Arena. He was there on March 20, when the Red Bulls opened the stadium in a friendly against Santos, a 3-1 win for the home side.

Now, a member of the Haitian national team, Etienne, Jr. said he received emails as a member of a Red Bulls Academy team, asking players who wanted to be a ball boy.

“I was one of the first guys to respond,” he said. “Most of the times I was able to do it.”

On that March night seven years ago, the atmosphere at RBA that night was electric. A packed house. An enthusiastic crowd. A terrific international opponent.

“I remember just being a little kid,” Etienne, Jr. said. “Oh, my goodness, how many people are here? Then looking across the field and seeing someone I idolized in Neymar. It was someone I looked up to in the game.

“And seeing a guy that I’ve heard throughout the whole time I was in the Academy, seeing Juan Agudelo getting subbed on and playing. Then when Mike Petke scored that goal, things couldn’t get any better than this for your first game to be a ball boy. It was an amazing atmosphere hearing the chants that were going on through there, how many fans that were there. There were just Red Bulls; pretty sure there weren’t a lot of Santos fans. Just football fans who came there to enjoy what was going on there. It was amazing.”

As incredible that game was, Etienne, Jr. had an even better memory — Thierry Henry’s amazing Olimpico goal in the 3-1 win over the Columbus Crew Sept. 15, 2012.

Actually, Etienne, Jr. played a small part in that fabulous score.

“I actually tossed him the ball,” he said.

Say what?

“Going back to where I was supposed to be standing, I actually missed the goal,” Etienne, Jr. said. “So, I had to look up and had to catch it on the screen. ‘Wow! This is Thierry Henry, won a World Cup, won Euros, won almost everything there is to be won and he just scored from a corner kick and its wow! It was amazing.

“I couldn’t describe that, knowing that I gave Henry the ball that he put in the goal. If I don’t hand him the ball, does he do that? I don’t know, maybe not. But the fact that I was able to give me the ball and he put that ball in was amazing.”