PASCO -- There's a bright future ahead for Derek Zimmerman, near and far.
The Tri-Cities Prep senior, who plays midfielder for the Pasco High School boys soccer team, thinks the Bulldogs could go places if they can stay focused on the goal of a CBBN 3A title.
"We'll be really good, I think," he said. "It's pretty much up to us how good we want to be."
After that, Zimmerman will move on to Saint Mary's College in Moraga, Calif., where he signed a letter of intent in early February. It's safe to say the Gaels have big plans for Zimmerman, too, after reaching the Elite Eight of the 2011 NCAA men's soccer tournament.
He even has thought about his life after college, maybe even as a professional soccer player. Or maybe he will find success elsewhere.
The most important thing for Zimmerman is knowing that he earned it. Otherwise, he's not interested.
"In our household, we were taught to work for something you want. Going through it, you realize by working hard, you can achieve something good," said Zimmerman, who worked his way up from junior varsity as a freshman to becoming a dominating presence in central midfield.
You've heard the last name before. Derek's older brother, Preston, joined U.S. Soccer's Under-17 Residency Program based in Bradenton, Fla., in 2004. Two years later, he signed a contract to play soccer in Germany, where he still plays professionally for SV Darmstadt 98.
Derek's other brother, Brandon, followed in Preston's footsteps in the residency program in 2006 and later earned a scholarship to Santa Clara University, where he became a four-time all-West Coast Conference midfielder.
Some coaches assumed Derek would follow his brothers into the residency program, but after careful consideration, he chose another path.
"In my freshman and sophomore year, I was thinking, 'I've got to get (to Florida),' but I eventually figured out that God wasn't calling me to do that," he said. "I realize now that me staying home not only helped my parents, it helped me develop into a better person."
Derek's parents, Ken and Pam, got the benefit of watching their youngest son's diligent work pay off before their eyes.
"There was a lot of implied pressure on him (to go to residency). Some of the Seattle (club) coaches would make comments that were really inappropriate," said Derek's father, Ken. "(Brandon and Preston) were different people. Derek did end up making some of those Seattle teams, and now he's going to a better school than a lot of those kids.
"I got the last chuckle on that one."
Pasco coach Matt Potter watched Derek transform from an average-sized outside mid with a decent skillset as a freshman into a full-time starter as a sophomore.
"He just worked and worked and worked, and when he came back, he had made incredible strides," Potter said of his second-year captain. "He's very intelligent, and he has that tremendous work ethic. That's played a huge role in how he's progressed."
Derek's physical growth also has helped his game. At nearly 6-foot-2, he can outleap other players for 50-50 balls and has the strength to fight off defenders.
But his best asset, according to Potter, is his passing.
"He has the physical ability to hold guys off, so you can play him in a real tight spot and have confidence that he'll a) get the ball and b) distribute it where it needs to be," Potter said. "He doesn't score a ton of goals, not even a lot of assists, but he can dominate a game."
He's also pretty good on defense. One of Derek's great pleasures is a good, hard slide tackle.
"Being a big guy, I get called (for fouls) on them a lot, but they're kind of nice," he said. "My goal, of course, isn't to hurt anyone, but a good tackle can turn momentum in your favor really quick."
He looks forward to playing at St. Mary's and seeing how he stacks up against the rest of the WCC, one of the premier soccer conferences in the nation. Derek's brother, Brandon, told him not to worry.
"He told me as long as I continue to work, he's confident I'm going to do well," Derek said.
"He understands the level and the challenge," Potter added. "His brothers are both national team players. He's battled with them his whole life, and I can't imagine they took it easy on him.
"I think he's ready. If he wasn't, he would've chosen to go somewhere else."
* Jack Millikin; 509-582-1406; email@example.com