Spring Arbor boy heading to Italy for international soccer tournament as Michigan’s lone representative on nationwide team

WIXOM, MI — Caleb Sexton has accomplished more in his soccer career than many players can imagine.

And he’s only 12 years old.

On April 14, Caleb and his family — parents Chris and Angie Sexton and 11-year-old sister, Belle — fly to Milan, Italy, for nine days where Caleb will play for the B13 Rush Select teamin the Margine Pro Tournament.

Caleb SextonCaleb Sexton practices with Rush Premiere Club at the Total Sports complex in Wixom Thursday, April 3, 2014. Sexton has been invited to play for the B13 Rush Select team that will play in Milan, Italy in an international tournament. (Sam Gause | Mlive.com)

“I’m just really excited to be able to do this,” Caleb said Thursday, April 3. “I never thought that something like this could happen when I started playing soccer.”

Caleb is the only player from Michigan – and one of only 30 from the United States – to make the roster.

The Jackson Christian seventh-grader will play against teams from around the world in friendly matches and eventually in a main tournament.

He qualified for the team after getting noticed by coaches at Rush Fest in Denver, and then at the Phoenix tryouts for the international team.

On the first day in Italy, the team will visit the San Siro Stadium, home of both Inter and AC Milan of the Serie A league.

After taking in the 80,000-seat capacity stadium, the team will travel to Lake Como for friendly matches against local competition to prepare for the tournament.

“Playing against some of the top competition in the world has me even more excited for this trip,” Caleb said. “It’s going to be fun visiting Italy with my family, but I really want to improve my strength when I’m on the ball while I’m there.”

When asked what makes Caleb stand out from the rest of the pack, the consensus from the people who spend the most time with him is that he’s a true student of the game.

“Caleb started playing at the YMCA in Jackson when he was 3, but it seems like he’s been playing since the womb,” Angie Sexton said. “Soccer has always been his passion since day one, and he can’t get enough of it.

“He records games on our DVR and constantly pauses and rewinds, just studying what the professionals do.”

Soccer is in Caleb’s blood as his father, Chris Sexton, played at Spring Arbor University for four years and coaches girls’ soccer at Jackson Christian High School.

His coaches on the Northville Rush team, assistant James Robinson and head coach Eric Rudland, speak of Caleb as if he is years ahead of his time.

Robinson, who plays soccer at Madonna University, said an opportunity like this is usually unheard of at Caleb’s age.

Rudland, a Parma Western High School graduate, started the Rush club in Jackson and spoke proudly of the opportunity that Caleb is taking advantage of.

“What sets Caleb apart is the fact that he always has a ball on his foot,” Rudland said. “There is no one in his age group that puts more time and effort into this game than Caleb.

“It’s so great to see him get the rewards he deserves for the fruits of his labor.”

Caleb practices at least twice a week, and plays games on the weekend, at the Total Sports Complex in Wixom, as he has for the last four years.

Spring Arbor to Wixom is more than a two-hour roundtrip for the Sexton family.

“All the trips down here multiple times a week are obviously paying off,” Angie Sexton said. “During the first year it was hard, but we left it up to him because this is obviously what he wants to do.”

Angie Sexton said her family is looking forward to sightseeing in Italy and watching Caleb play against some of the top competition in the world.

She said the family was able to get the players’ rate for their tickets, and Caleb had his expenses covered by selling raffle tickets and local sponsors.

Caleb and his team have a full itinerary, and he is focused on using this opportunity to his full advantage.