Dylan Nealis on competing against his brothers: “There’s always like that edge in me that I want to outdo them, one up them.” (Photo courtesy of the Georgetown University SID)
By Michael Lewis
There’s something to be said about getting beaten up, so to speak, by your older brothers while playing soccer in your backyard while growing up.
It certainly has paid off for Dylan Nealis, the youngest of four soccer-playing brothers who is on the cusp of a professional soccer career after helping Georgetown University to the NCAA Division I men’s championship.
He also is one of three finalists for the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy as the best men’s college player in the land, which will be revealed in St. Louis on Friday night.
“His family is a soccer family; very athletic, all of them.,” Georgetown head coach Brian Wiese said in a recent phone interview. “Different kinds of athletes, but very athletic as a family. Dylan arguably the most raw talent. Maybe that’s because he’s the youngest. He grew up in a competitive backyard. You always give the benefit of doubt to the younger siblings. They’re the ones that have to go through the battles when they were not ready to go through the battles that serves them well.
It certainly served the baby of the Nealis family well. Dylan got his lessons and took his lumps and became a better athlete and soccer player because of it.
The Nealis brothers, from the oldest to the youngest:
* Former Georgetown defender Jimmy, 28, who played for the Cosmos in 2013-14 and plays for the N.Y. Pancyprian Freedoms in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League.
* Ex-Binghamton University midfielder-defender Connor, 25.
* One-time Hofstra University defender Sean, 22, who plays for the Red Bulls.
* And of course, Dylan, 21.
“I think it just created the competitive nature in me,” Dylan said. “Obviously with three older brothers, they were super good athletes in high school, making the varsity teams as freshmen and sophomores. People ask you like ‘Hey are you as good as them and stuff like that?’ There’s always like that edge in me that I want to outdo them, one up them.”
Dylan turned into a human sponge, learning the intricacies at whatever sport in which he competed against his brothers. It usually was soccer or basketball.
“It puts the emphasis on the little details because obviously they might be more athletic, bigger, faster, so I won’t be able to get away with those things going against them,” he said. “So just focusing on the things that I can do better was probably my biggest emphasis growing up. That’s what stuck with me — the importance of details and not always rely on certain assets.”
Dylan honed his skills performing for the Massapequa Soccer Club and Massapequa High School. One of his most memorable moments was playing with Sean on the squad’s state championship team in 2015. The Nealis’ family reputation and Dylan’s success certainly attracted many a college, including Georgetown.
“He came in as a very talented, but an athletic player, but one who needed to learn a lot and one who needed to grow up,” Wiese said. “Over the four seasons with us, he’s evolved into a much more nuanced tactical player. He’s evolved into a captain and a leader of the team of the program. He’s evolved into a player who is much more emotionally ready to handle the ups and downs not only of a game, but of a season. That takes time. That takes experience. It takes maturing. He’s really worked hard to develop into the player he’s become and he’s worked hard to grow our program that was able to one that was able to win the national a championship. And he’s worked hard to get an opportunity to play as a pro, which he most certainly will.”
Earlier this week, Nealis signed a Generation adidas contract with Major League Soccer. There is little doubt he will be selected by a team somewhere in the first round. The only question is how early.
The interview with Dylan took place just before he left Washington, D.C. for the winter break last week. So, then he was looking forward seeing and playing against his brothers.
“I guess from day one, all love competing,” he said. “We still play basketball. I’m sure we will. When i head home for winter break, we’ll play basketball in the front yard. Just 2 v 2. Having four of us works out because it’s good numbers-wise.”