BUIES CREEK, N.C. - All-American Richard Jata of Campbell University was selected by the Chicago Fire in the fourth round of Thursday's Major League Soccer Super Draft. He is the first Fighting Camel chosen by an MLS club since Willy Guadarrama was tabbed by the Kansas City Wizards in the fourth round of the 2007 supplemental draft.
A second-team All-America choice by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) and first-team All-South Region pick, Jata played a vital role for the 2008 Fighting Camel squad that won its second A-Sun regular season championship and made its third trip to the league final in the last four years.
"It was getting closer and closer to the end of the draft, and I put my head down and prayed," said Jata, a native of Clearwater, Fla. "It was one of the best feelings I've ever felt, a dream come true. It's just an unbelievable feeling to finally reach my dream of becoming a pro. It's very fulfilling, and I'm very grateful I had this opportunity and glad Chicago saw something in me."
Jata was one of four players selected by the Fire on Thursday. Midfielder Baggio Husidic from Illinois-Chicago went in the second round, 20th overall, followed by defender David Sias of Cal-Irvine with the 43rd selection. Chicago tabbed midfielder Jokull Elisabetarson of UNC Greensboro with the 52nd selection, then chose Jata with the 58th overall pick.
The Fire was without a first-round choice after it traded its top selection last summer to Toronto FC for the rights to U.S. National striker Brian McBride.
"I'm extremely pleased for Richard," said Campbell head coach Doug Hess. "It's been a dream for him to play pro soccer. I'm just excited that he's going to have the opportunity to show what he can do. He's an extremely gifted player we all at Campbell certainly wish him the best as he pursues his professional career."
In addition to his All-America and All-South honors, Jata was named 2008 Atlantic Sun Conference player of the year and added first-team all-conference honors for the third-straight season. The native of Port Richey, Fla., scored a career-high 28 points in 17 matches on 12 goals and four assists to lead the A-Sun goals (0.71) and points (1.65) per game.
Jata ranked 15th nationally in goals per game and 19th in points per outing and tied the A-Sun record with seven game-winning goals. He scored in each of his last nine games of 2008 and provided the winner in seven of those outings, while adding A-Sun all-tournament team honors in each of his final two seasons to his list of accomplishments.
During Jata's three-year career in Buies Creek, Campbell posted a 20-1-1 record in games when he scored, 8-1-0 in 2008. He finished his career with 12 game-winning goals, second-most in league history. In only 57 career games, Jata collected 71 points (15th in school history) on 28 goals and 15 assists. He was a second-team All-South pick in both 2006 and 2007.
Jata was CU's first All-America choice since Willy Guadarrama gained third-team recognition after leading the country in goals and points per game in 2005.
Campbell concluded the season with a 14-6-0 (.700) overall record and a 9-0-0 A-Sun ledger, as well as its first-ever year-end national ranking and highest South Region rating in the program's Division I era.
Soccer America ranked the Camels number-25 in its final 2008 poll, while CU was rated third in the always-tough South Region by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. CU's winning percentage (.700) was the 20th-best of the 204 men's soccer programs in Division I.
Campbell finished the season with the nation's third-highest scoring attack at 2.2 goals per match. Only top-ranked Wake Forest (3.45 goals per game) and top-10 Loyola of Maryland (2.33) scored at a better clip among the nation's 204 Division I programs than the Camels.
Campbell also broke a 38-year-old school record by winning 12-consecutive matches. That stretch included a 2-0 victory over seventh-ranked and eventual national runner-up North Carolina. The triumph in front of 1,187 fans at the Eakes Athletic Complex was CU's third over the Tar Heels in the last three years.