Caleb Norkus, once referred to as "Mr. RailHawk" for his community service and distinction as one of two Carolina RailHawks left over from the original 2006 team, said Thursday night that he was released from the team at the end of last season. Norkus, 31, said it being let go by his hometown team was "painful." He said he believes at this time his playing career is done and he would like to focus on coaching.
"I'm just trying to use everything I've learned and be the best coach I can be," Norkus said. "And make a new career out of that and just give that my full heart."
Norkus played against the RailHawks on Thursday as part of CASL Elite, an adult amateur soccer team. The RailHawks are scrimmaging their invited trialists as they prepare for next year.
Norkus is a Raleigh native who won a state championship at Sanderson High School and ACC titles at UNC-Chapel Hill. He played on the U.S. men's U17 and U18 teams in 1995-96 and has played professionally in Chile and Germany, as well as the Charlotte Eagles, Charleston Battery and Richmond Kickers.
The writing was on the wall for Norkus, who did not play in a league match last season for the RailHawks, only seeing the field in a friendly against Pumas Morelos of Mexico.
Norkus is working part-time for CASL as its community outreach coordinator, which allows him to continue to be involved in the community, just as he was with the RailHawks. It also allows him to get into coaching, which is what his dad Charlie Norkus did at Cary High School, even while Caleb was at Sanderson.
"I get to to do private and small group trainings in the area. I try to just teach and coach and encourage and try to spread that passion to the kids," Norkus said. "It's all about the kids now."
In the 2009 home opener, Norkus proposed to Danielle Fernandez — the team's national anthem singer. As Fernandez finished her rendition, Norkus crept up behind her, got down on one knee and surprised her with a ring when she turned around. The two were wed a few months afterwards, and Norkus said they recently bought a house in the area.
Norkus said the Charlotte Eagles had approached him about playing forward for their team. But Norkus said he must take everything else into account before deciding to play professionally again.
"I still have a lot of desire to play, so I'm glad [CASL Elite] is in place but I can't help but want to continue playing," Norkus said. "At the end of the day I may have to make a sacrifice. But I have to weigh my options and try and go where God is leading me."
In four years, Norkus played in 57 league matches for Carolina, scoring three goals as he played both right-back and forward.