TALENTED teen footballer James Paylor has secured a prestigious scholarship at an American university - and the opportunity arose thanks to a chance conversation while he was on detention.
The 18-year-old Hartlepool College of Further Education student will jet over the pond in August to start life at Bethel University, in Tennessee.
It’s a dream opportunity for James, who says studying in the US will open endless doors for him as well as giving him priceless life experience.
And he explained how the possibility of studying and playing football - or soccer - in America first entered his mind when he got kept behind one night when he was a pupil at English Martyrs RC School and Sixth Form College.
“I was quite lucky really,” said James, equally at home as a centre back or a centre midfielder on the pitch.
“I think I was in Year 9 or Year 10 at school and I got kept back in detention one night for one reason or another.
“There was a guy called Keith Brown who worked at the school and also had an agency to help students get scholarships in America and we got talking about it.”
Keith, who runs Global Sports Ltd, handed James the chance to play in a number of trial matches, and the teenager obviously impressed.
He received offers from a number of American universities but after a lot of deliberation opted for Bethel.
James, who lives in the Bishop Cuthbert area of Hartlepool with his dad, Carl, 54, said: “It’s an absolutely massive opportunity for me.
“I don’t think it’s the type of opportunity that comes round for everyone every day.
“So many doors will be opened for me and it’s the life experience of it all as well.”
As well as playing for Seaton Carew under 18s, James is also a regular in the County Durham side and plays for Brandon United in the Northern League.
He is obviously extremely grateful to Keith for helping to make the opportunity a reality, but James also reserved praise for two coaches at Hartlepool College of FE, Shaun Hope and Ian Clark.
His dad Carl, a stonemason, said: “I’m very proud.
“He’s worked so hard and he done really well, he deserves this chance.”