Just a few short years ago, Chase Rushing was just a New Orleans Jesters fan, making his way to Pan-Am Stadium to watch some of his favorite players on the pitch for the city's National Premier Soccer League Team.

Now the Jesuit High School grad is actually a Jester.

Rushing, who just turned 19 in March, is the new kid on the block on the team that plays its home opener at 7 p.m. Saturday against Chattanooga.

"I always like playing with people older than me because it's always challenging," Rushing said. "They have a lot more knowledge and experience, so I always learn so much from them. It's fun though."

Rushing, who just completed his freshman season at UAB, said deciding to play for his home team was a no-brainer.

He calls it a "fun, summer job."

"The Jesters are a great soccer program, and it's a team I wanted to be a part of," Rushing said. "All of my idols used to come here, so I would come here and watch them play. One day I wanted to be a part of this team and eventually I got the chance and it's a really good feeling. "

Jesters coach Kenneth Farrell has been pleased with what he has seen from Rushing thus far.

"He is technically superb," Farrell said. "He has been technically sound. He has as much potential as some of the other local players who have come through."

Farrell raves about Rushing's skills, boasting on everything from his footwork, his ability to learn quickly and his work ethic.

But he also wants to see one thing change about the youngest player on his roster.

"What I notice sometimes is that he is too humble," Farrell said. "He needs to be more assertive. He steps in the shadows sometimes and lets other players do it when I know he can do it. I want him to come out of his skin. I think that's going to happen over the year."

Farrell says former players like Mandeville native Andrew Tarbell and Patrick Mullins having played for the Jesters has helped the team become a destination spot.

"A couple players have left here and gone to sign pro contracts in England so people are watching more," Farrell said. "So it's an easier sale for them to come here. We are very focused on our local players as well. Blending the pro players from overseas with our young players coming through is an extension of their development. Our reputation overseas is getting better."

The Jesters will be looking for their first win of the season after playing the Shreveport Rafters to a 1-1 tie in the season opener on the road Wednesday night.

Farrell is optimistic about this year's team.

"Talent-wise, this team will be as good as any team in the league," Farrell said.

The Jesters finished 7-3-5 last season and 4-3-3 in Southeast Conference play. Because of expansion, the conference has been split into an East and West Division this season. The Jesters will compete in the West Division with the Birmingham Hammers, Chattanooga FC, Inter Nashville FC, and Memphis City FC and play all division opponents twice. They will also play a home and away against two teams from the East.

Farrell is hoping for a crowd of 3,000 for Saturday's home opener.

"Then if we can get 1,300 to 1,500 on Saturday nights and 800 to 900 midweek, I think we'd be doing well," he said.

Winning, of course, would help with those numbers.

Mason Walsh said he thinks the team has the right pieces to do just that.

"You can already see that the team is jelling really well," Walsh said. "We have the experience and some young players with really good ability. Hopefully with that mixture, we have the winning formula."


Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.