For the casual observer watching the men’s soccer team’s opener against Maine at Reese Stadium on Sept. 7, the skilled central midfielder who calmly possessed the ball and confidently dribbled by opposing defenders would have seemed like a seasoned veteran.

Yet it was senior walk-on Sam Post’s first-ever Division 1 game.

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Post is a super-senior, and his last semester at Yale has been his first on the field.

Post did not emerge from obscurity to eventually play a major role on the team this year. Rather, his success this season has been a long time in the making.

Prior to beginning his freshman year at Yale in 2004, Post had talked to head coach Brian Tompkins about walking on. A long-term groin injury, though, dissuaded him from playing and he instead joined the Yale club soccer team during his sophomore year. He was still hampered by nagging groin and ankle injuries and was unable to play consistently. After taking off the fall term of 2006, Post returned last year to the varsity team’s open tryout in the middle of September and was invited back to play during the spring.

But for Post, last spring was awkward because he practiced with the team but was not yet an official member.

Post said that although he did not play to his full potential during the spring, he is grateful for the faith Tompkins showed in him.

“Coach has been really helpful, giving me the chance to play in the spring,” he said. “I didn’t play my best in the spring, so I didn’t have a chance to prove myself. But coach has been great in giving me time to adapt to the level, to show the team that I can play.”

One of the major ways Post made sure he would be ready for the upcoming season was by focusing on conditioning over the summer to make sure that his body would be ready for the physical demands of Division 1 soccer.

As he came back to pre-season this August as a member of the team, Post acknowledged feeling more comfortable around his teammates.

“Spring was a little rough,” he said. “Once I came back for the fall, the guys have been really welcoming. We’re all in it together. When we get together, all our individual things are gone, we’re all working towards the same goal.”

“It’s all about helping the team, and then it doesn’t matter,” he added. “Recruit, walk-on — there’s no difference.”

Team unity aside, Post is still teased by teammates for being a walk-on. Yet he sees the fact that players such as Jordan Raybould ’10 rib him about being a walk-on as evidence that he has successfully integrated into the team.

And according to fellow senior Frank Piasta ’09, the team is grateful for Post’s contributions to Yale’s offense.

“All jokes aside, for someone to walk onto a Division 1 soccer team and immediately get playing time, that means a lot,” Piasta said. “We’re lucky to have him, especially since last year we didn’t have a lot of offensive threat.”

There are two other walk-ons on the team: defender/midfielder Alex Afsahi ’09, who has been on the team since his freshman year, and midfielder/forward Sam Miles ’11, who has been playing with the team since the spring.

“[Post] has done well, he’s jumped in at the deep end and has done well,” Tompkins said. “He brings creativity and is confident with the ball. We had him join the team in the spring, but he’s been playing as though he’s been here four years.”

In no game was that more evident than the team’s 1-0 loss at home to Fairfield on Sept. 27. Although Post came in as a substitute, he played 75 of the 90 minutes as a center midfielder. He was both a calming presence in the midfield, constantly urging his team to possess the ball, and a creative threat on offense with his runs forward.

Despite the progress Post has made, Tompkins acknowledged that he is still adapting to the intensity of D-1 soccer, struggling most with the tempo and physicality of the game.

Although Post is significantly healthier than in previous years, he has also missed four of nine games so far because of minor injuries.

In his first and last season for the Bulldogs, Post is trying to take advantage of every moment this year.

“I’m just trying to make the most of it — do what I can for this team,” he said. “I’m loving it for sure.”