By Kevin Strauss, Media Relations Assistant
"One day at a time." That's the mantra for Cal State Northridge men's soccer forward Brian Behrad. A local product from nearby Woodland Hills, Calif., and Taft High School, Behrad reminds himself to take things on a day-by-day basis in order to be successful in the classroom and on the field.
Whether he is putting in the time on the pitch to develop his tactical game, watching film to get mentally prepared for the next opponent, or grinding it out in class to keep his grades up, Behrad's diligence in everything he does has translated to both individual and team success at CSUN.
"Brian has been a leader on our team from the day he joined us, spiritually, socially and with his tireless work ethic," said CSUN head coach Terry Davila. "He is a tremendous role model both on and off the field and there is not one person in our program that doesn't like and respect him and what he does."
Behrad's optimism, determination and desire to help others succeed stem from his childhood and the lessons instilled in him by his parents. From playing mediator between his sister and brother to sharing his positive take on world events with his followers on Twitter and other social media, he has been able to calm and inspire his peers in addition to serving as a constant force for those around him. While he does draw on his religion for meaning and comfort Behrad says the bigger goal is to help others see that people are the same in all walks of life.
"It goes back to how I was raised; my parents raised me very well," said Behrad when asked about his desire for helping others reach their goals. "My brother and sister are two very different people and growing up I always played mediator between them.
"I really love finding inspiration in the world and I read the Bible a lot. Many people don't understand that there is a lot of inspiration to be found in the Bible even if you do not believe in the religious aspect," added Behrad. "When I get inspired, I want to try and impact everyone else around me. It's great to get responses and messages back from those I'm not too close with that are helped and find meaning in the process."
Although the kinesiology major is still working on his plans for after college, Behrad is taking time now to devote 100 percent of his effort to earning his degree and helping the Matadors make a run at another Big West Conference championship.
"I know I need to work as hard as possible to get the best possible grades," said Behrad. "I strive for perfection but I know I just need to stay focused on school and soccer."
While one may argue that completing a degree is a very personal endeavor, Behrad aims each day to set an example for his teammates. As one of four seniors on the team he uses his leadership position to motivate and inspire those around him, including children in the community.
"I remember back when I was a kid and I would see these college players and I literally thought they were professionals," added Behrad. "I looked up to them and they were my role models. Now that I am older, I am doing what I can to be a role model for the younger kids in our community."
Behrad, along with Chris Smith and Carlos Benavides, knows what it means to be stuck in the depths and rise to the top in collegiate soccer. As a freshman in 2010, Behrad and the Matadors compiled a 3-14-2 record, finishing the season with one of the worst marks in program history.
"It was a really weird season because we were better than a lot of teams that we played," said Behrad. "We had really good players, but we weren't as team oriented as we are now. We are more successful now because it is about all of us."
The next season Cal State Northridge enjoyed a more successful year and finished with an 8-8-3 (.500) record, narrowly missing out on a berth to the NCAA Tournament. A year older and a year wiser, Behrad slowly became a leader on the team by learning from Rafael Garcia, one of the most accomplished players in Northridge soccer history and now with the LA Galaxy organization.
"I learned a lot from Rafa in the two seasons we played together. Rafa took me under his wing, talked to me a lot and showed me the ins and outs of the game," continued Behrad. "Because of him I was more focused on working hard for the team."
Going into his junior season, Behrad knew that the Matadors had found the right blend of talent, mindset and the drive to win. Cal State Northridge collected an impressive 15-7-0 record, championships in the Big West's South Division and Conference Tournament for the first time, and the program's first NCAA appearance since 2005.
Before the Big West Tournament Final at UC Davis, Behrad turned a group of nervous players on the brink of history into a cohesive unit that would not settle for second place simply by not allowing his own nerves to show.
"I'll admit that I was extremely nervous and anxious to play, but I was lucky because I am able to hide how I am feeling when I need to focus," said Behrad. "I am always there for others, so seeing those on the team that seemed lost a little made me want to help them more. Even now, I want to make sure that we are all focused and ready to perform the task given to us."
Now in his final campaign with the Matadors, Behrad continues to see his hard work pay off. Northridge opened the season with seven consecutive victories for the first and only time since 1979, earning the right to be ranked as the third-best team in the country in the process.
Confidence is high in the CSUN camp as the team looks to make the NCAA Tournament once again. Through the non-conference portion of the schedule, Behrad scored five goals and added an assist for 11 points all while in a substitute role.
"Every person wants to be a starter and I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to start matches," said Behrad. "If coming off of the bench helps the team then I'm all for it. Coach [Terry] Davila and I talked about it and I told him I am 100 percent for whatever I can do to help us win games."
With the final weeks of the regular season still ahead, Behrad and his teammates are gearing up for the chance to defend their Big West crown and advance through the NCAA Tournament toward the College Cup in Philadelphia. To get there, they know that they will have to take the season one day at a time.