When you sit down with Kage Romanshyn Jr, there is little doubt that he looks the part of your average 18-year-old. But, once you begin to converse with the young man, it doesn’t take very long to realize that the kid is anything but “average.”

The maturity this Apple Valley, Minnesota-native displays off the pitch is something that has certainly translated to his skillset on it. In fact, Romanshyn’s development within MNUFC’s Academy program has already garnered attention at a league-wide level. Most notable amongst the attention paid was his selection to the MLS NEXT All-Star squad earlier this season, and then being named the MLS NEXT Pro Rising Star of the Matchday for matchday 27 of the season, becoming only the second Academy player to feature for MNUFC2 to receive the honor.

While those accolades are well-deserved, don’t expect Romanshyn’s early achievements to be something that breeds overconfidence. Kage is a lad who knows that there is far more development that needs to happen if he hopes to attain the same examples of success at the highest levels of the sport.

“Personally, I know I need to improve a lot physically. Playing at the next level, it’s not only a quicker pace, but there’s a lot more physicality too. I do feel like I’ve done well at adapting to the pace of play at that level, but I don’t want to be getting pushed off the ball as much.”

Most of us go through our teenage years with those same hopes of developing a more physically imposing presence as we hit the on-ramp to adulthood. Obviously, for Kage Romanshyn Jr, those hopes of developing anatomically take on a whole different meaning when considering his desire to play the beautiful game at the professional level. But, when it comes to talking about the love of the game itself and those players that inspire us to play, Romanshyn Jr. still sounds like a kid at heart. His youthful enthusiasm was on full display when I asked about his favorite player, Hany Mukhtar of Nashville SC. But, even as he gushed about the aspects of Mukhtar’s game he tries to emulate, it was clear that his enthusiasm for the player doesn’t deter from his deep knowledge of the sport and what attributes make the great ones great.

“Honestly, I try to emulate him a ton. He’s someone who always just seems to be around the ball at all times. Especially when he’s in the box…he’s a ‘fox in the box.’ He really just knows where to be, and how to find the right spots to operate in. That, and the way he makes runs, are what always stick out to me. And, I hope to get better at that myself. Just making the kind of runs that put you in spots to be successful.”

I was fully expecting his reply to mention Mukhtar’s well-known goal scoring prowess but, in hindsight, his reply shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me because Romanshyn Jr. is a true student of the game. And, a great student in the classroom too. The young prospect has already prioritized his studies ahead of his development, as he would graduate high school a semester early. Now, with a gap year to train and raise his game to the next level, Kage Romanshyn Jr. is already looking at ways to make next season even more successful than the one previous. For him, that means gaining more minutes and more trust with his MNUFC2 coaches and teammates.

“I definitely think starting a lot more would be one of my main goals for next season. Not only that, I want to improve as a scorer. I feel like I’ve lacked a little bit in that department, I feel like I have a better sense for the flow of the game, and I'm always striving to make every part of my game better. But, if I can add some scoring consistency to my game, I think I can be that much better.”

After our conversation, there is little doubt in my mind that Kage Roymanshyn Jr. is special. Not just because he has such talent for the game at his age, but from the wisdom he carries with him. While there are many lessons yet to be learned for this young gun, he understands the kind of work he will need to put in if he wants to achieve greatness. In that respect, Romanshyn Jr. seems to be ahead of the curve.