British soccer star is a Texan who looks to Heaven after each goal he scores

Clint Dempsey is one of two Americans ever to score in two World Cups. He's the only American to score an English Premier League hat trick. And he has a quiet ritual of a brother's eternal love.

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“I can remember, really clearly, arriving at the hospital and a little doubt forming in the back of mind: ‘What if this is it? What if my sister dies today?’”

“His voice is steady but this is the one moment he pauses,” writes Taylor. “‘You get there,’ recalls Dempsey, ‘and everyone is crying. They tell you and your heart falls from your chest. You hit the ground and you cry for hours. You cry until your head aches.’”

“I can talk about it now as I feel she is in a better place,” he says softly. “But it’s something you can never get over.”

“It’s weird because I remember something she told me. We would talk about death and she said, ‘If I ever pass away, do you want me to come back and let you know I’m OK?’

“I said: ‘No, that would scare me too bad!’

“We talked about it some more and she said, ‘Well, if I ever die I will help you get the ball in the net.’

“And that’s why I look up to the sky now when I score — to remember her.”

As a 12-year-old, he made that promise to her in a hand-written letter

he placed in a vase at Jennifer’s grave.

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An autographed photo of Dempsey gazing heavenward

Today, he is a member of the U.S. National Soccer Team – yes, the squad that represents America in the Olympics. England still has trouble forgiving him for scoring against them in the 2010 World Cup. In America’s Major League Soccer, he made quite an impact with that hunger to score that he’s never lost – and his wild enthusiasm. After one famous goal, he jumped into the stands to plant a kiss on his mother’s cheek.

“After everything we had been through together,” he says with a smile, “we shared that moment.”

After all, she did her best to make every game possible when he played on a full scholarship at Furman University. However, finances made it tough. In college, two of his teammates, Greg Griffin and Chefik Simo, asked him one day if he wanted to go with them to a concert.

“They were friends of mine and I wanted to go but I was like, ‘I haven’t even got 10 bucks to spend.’ And being broke saved my life. They got in a car crash, they flipped over and an 18-wheeler hit them. Greg died. Chefik was injured so bad he couldn’t play again.”

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Rob Kerby
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