Tim Howard is not like you or me.
As he proved again and again on Tuesday, the U.S. men’s national soccer team goalie is less of a man and more of a force of nature.
The 35-year-old keeper turned back 16 shots during the USMNT’s round-of-16 game against Belgium, tallying the most saves by a goalie in World Cup history.
Excellence of this nature is founded in confidence—something Howard has possessed by the half-gallon since high school.
An image of what’s alleged to be the U.S. keeper’s senior yearbook photo surfaced on the Internet on Tuesday night. Kevin Kaduk of Dirty Tackle spotted the picture, which originally turned up on Reddit. If genuine, the image shows an awesome, spookily prescient senior quote from Howard.
Indeed, Belgium is a nation of millions, and it took the equivalent of a 93-minute hailstorm from the Belgian attack to put a single ball past Howard.
The quote is a take on Public Enemy’s 1988 album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, which appears to have had an influence on young Howard, then a highly touted goalie prospect at North Brunswick High in New Jersey.
Cheryl Makin of MyCentralJersey.com reports that a sizable crowd gathered at the North Brunswick High auditorium to watch the match and cheer for the hometown hero on Tuesday. Among the crowd was local council president Cathy Nicola, a North Brunswick alumnus.
“Everybody here is here to see Tim,” Nicola told Makin. “He graduated from here in 1997. ... He is really one of the best. He is a great athlete, has great character and is a gentleman. The township is really proud of him.”
Despite the USMNT’s loss, Howard has burrowed his way into the hearts of American soccer fans everywhere. The goalie tweeted his appreciation of their support on Wednesday morning, saying it was an honor to play for his country.
No. Thank you, Tim Howard, for putting a nation of millions on your back and making believers of even the most cynical soccer fans.
Then again, Howard doesn't want personal laurels. After all, he knew he had it in him this whole time.
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