Randy Pascal for the Sudbury Star
There are still elements of his game that are unmistakably Brandon Moxam – a quick dart to recover a loose ball, the boundless energy that makes it hard not to notice the graduate of St Benedict Catholic Secondary School at any point during a Cambrian College soccer game.
And yet the reality is that so much has changed.
Sure, there was the gradual change that emerged, quite naturally, as Moxam progressed from a handful of years of recreational play within the Walden Minor Soccer system, eventually signing on at the age of 13 with head coach Nick Mancini and the Greater Sudbury Soccer Club Impact.
"I started playing soccer when I was five years old," reflected the eldest of three children in the family. "My dad grew up playing baseball, so he always wanted me to play baseball in the summer and hockey in the winter. That was kind of what his childhood was like. I'm kind of the only soccer player in my family that I know of."
As the lure of the sport took hold with Moxam, one which fed his near constant desire to chase down the ball, his interest and devotion to the game rose exponentially. This, however, was going to require a family buy-in. For two full winters, the well-spoken speedster would travel to Vaughan, twice a week for a trio of sessions with the Winstars Soccer Academy.
"All around, I improved so much," he stated. "The player who I was going into the soccer academy and the player I was coming out are two very different players. I learned to be a lot more physical, and I learned spatial awareness on the field. They teach you to try and know what you want to do two steps before you even get the ball in every situation."
Every Wednesday, Moxam and his mother would travel for workouts in Vaughan, practices that were scheduled from 9 until 11 p.m. On weekends, there were two-a-days. "It was very stressful, at times, especially in the winter, so full thanks to my mom." Thankfully, Notre-Dame keeper Hunter Adams joined in year two, with at least some splitting of the driving duties providing some timely relief.
"It was definitely worth it," said Moxam.
There was no doubt the young man, an undersized attacking forward or striker for most of his life, possessed big dreams. And while some might have remained angry and disappointed in not reaching the pinnacle, Moxam channelled his energy into becoming the very best he could be – even if that meant re-inventing himself on the pitch.
"It's actually pretty funny," he noted. "In the last three years or so, I've slowly worked myself back on the field, now playing center defensive mid. I have a lot more of a defensive role, stopping the other team's attackers and then distributing the ball to our attackers.
"As an attacking player, you can be as aggressive as you want when you're attacking their back-line, because you have so many players behind you," Moxam added. "You have free will to try and steal the ball. When you're back in central defensive mid, there's you and your center mid partner, and four other players behind you."
"My job is to stop the other team from progressing forward, and if I don't do that, then it leaves our last line of defence as our only hope."
It is that kind of commitment that emanates clearly from the words he is speaking, accentuating the pride with which he tackles the task he has been assigned, that is drawing rave reviews from Golden Shield coaching staff in the early going of 2018.
The beauty is that Moxam recognizes, more than most, that there still exists ample room for improvement. "I'm still adapting to my position," he said. "I can always work on it. I've tried going 100 per cent for the full 90 minutes, and I will be completely drained by the 70th minute, so I have to pick and choose my moments, when to intercept, when to carry it up the field.
"It's weird, because I have to be much more reserved instead of just going at it 100 per cent, always."
It's that type of introspection that has also allowed Moxam to be thankful for the opportunities he has been given, not bitter for those which lie outside of his reach.
"There's some teams that we play where I will struggle, I'll be out-matched or out-played by my opponent. I don't think at all that I should be at a higher level. I don't think I'm ready for that yet. I'm happy with how I'm performing for Cambrian."
Even the offer of a "do over" — a chance to go back and alter the path that would lead to this point — leaves Moxam longing for only a relatively slight variation. "I wish I had started watching soccer earlier, so that I had more comprehension of the game," he explained. "When you watch it, you understand a lot more, and it translates on to the field very effectively."
As much as soccer as been central to his life to date, Brandon Moxam knows the time will soon be here where a balance must be struck. He is nothing if not a grounded young man. "I've kind of had to do a reality check on myself and think about exactly how good am I, realistically," he stressed. "If I don't think I'm up to the calibre where I can play at a professional level, then I am going to focus on my schooling.
"That is something I have done," he continued. "At the moment, I'm prioritizing my school first, because I have a lot of work to do before I can even think of playing at a higher level than I am right now."
Dreams are not easy to let go.
"It's just that you won't be able to do thing you truly love," Moxam pronounced, quite philosophically. "I would love to go out and play soccer professionally, but the reality of it is that I likely cannot play at a high enough level to actually sustain myself."
Thankfully, for all involved with the Golden Shield team, his love of soccer is very much helping Cambrian College sustain their competitive edge in the toughest division of CCAA soccer in the land.
And there is plenty to be proud of accomplishing just that.
— Cambrian Athletics runs on Tuesday during the school season.