Most rookies come into their first pro training camp bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, unprepared for the humbling that comes with the demanding regimen of being a full-time professional athlete.
Emily Madril is not most rookies.
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2023 NWSL Draft by the Pride last month, Madril had already spent five years in college, fought through two ACL surgeries and a global pandemic, and played a pro season with Racing Louisville’s USL W League squad and BH Häcken in Sweden before she ever put on a Pride jersey.
“I put pressure on myself more than I think anybody else does,” Madril told Orlando-Pride.com in an exclusive interview after her first week of Pride training at Orlando Health Training Ground.
“So you know, I'm definitely expecting to come out of the gate strong and show what I can do."
2023 NWSL Draft: Orlando Pride select Emily Madril at No. 3 overall
Madril burst onto the scene back in 2017 at Florida State University, starting all but one game and establishing herself as one of the top defensive prospects in college soccer. A torn ACL ended her 2018 season before it began, though, and just as she was about to return in 2019, Madril tore the ACL in her opposite leg.
“You work so hard to recover and then it happens again, and it just put me way down low,” Madril reflected. “I was struggling a little bit mentally and it was – the second one was a lot harder, but I think coming out on the other side of it, I was just so much happier to be out on the field with my teammates instead of on the sidelines. [My] biggest takeaway is how much fun [playing] is and to not take it for granted.
“You take things for granted until they get taken away.”
A new perspective in tow, Madril roared back to life in 2021, earning second team All-American honors in the COVID-postponed spring season before putting together one of the most impressive individual seasons for a defender in FSU history in the fall. Madril won ACC Defensive Player of the Year, led her team to five shutouts in six NCAA Tournament games, and helped capture a national title for the Seminoles.
Madril had nothing left to prove at the college level. After featuring for Racing Louisville in the USL W League and earning Best XI second team honors in the spring, Madril decided to take a different tack to line up her NWSL career.
In August, she bypassed her final year of eligibility at FSU and signed a contract directly with the league.
“My agents just came to me [last summer] and said that the NWSL was willing to sign me and then put me out on loan until the draft,” Madril recalled. “I wanted to play in the NWSL so I figured, 'Just go for it,' and it was a really good deal, because I got to live in Sweden and experience that and now I'm here.”
Madril spent the fall with BH Häcken, a Champions League-level club in Sweden, gaining valuable pro experience and essentially completing a rookie season before ever playing in the NWSL.
“I'm so glad it worked out that way [for me to go to Sweden],” Madril said. “I ended up going to a really good team [with] a lot of experienced players, and I think just getting to experience a different culture, a different country, I think it's helped me grow a little bit as a person.”
Because she was with Häcken on loan, she remained eligible for the draft. After initial conversations in November and more on draft day, the Pride snapped her up at No. 3 overall.
Orlando Pride Today | A new era begins at 2023 preseason training
“Emily's an exceptional talent,” said Pride head coach Seb Hines. “[She] had a really successful collegiate career, [she] already has pro experience, she's a local player also, so she ticks a lot of boxes. It's our responsibility to develop her as well. And she wants that. She wants to be better. She has goals, she has expectations of herself.”
And make no mistake – Madril’s goals are ambitious.
“One of my main goals is to be in the starting XI,” Madril told us. “That's important to me, and I really want to make that happen. [I want to be] someone that my teammates can rely on…further along in my career, my goal is to make the national team, so I'll always have that in the back of my head.”
With so much experience already, including time with the national team youth set-ups, the sky's the limit for what Madril can achieve with the Pride. But with experience comes maturity and perspective, and the 23 year-old was quick to note that she still has a long way to go.
“It’s just my rookie year,” she said. “I’m just taking everything in and trying to learn as much as I can.”