Nightly News | June 17, 2010
LESTER HOLT, anchor: At the World Cup in South Africa , the US is turning long-held notions about American soccer on their heads, that we just aren't into the sport and that the US can't field a team of contenders. As NBC 's Ian Williams tells us, the man who's become a big force in recasting that image abroad is no stranger to changing minds or turning back a well-placed shot.
IAN WILLIAMS reporting: Just days ago this hardly seemed possible, Tim Howard back training, ready to take on Slovenia Friday. Against England the US goalkeeper was hit by a nasty blow to the ribs, but played on in spite of the pain and was named man of the match .
Mr. TIM HOWARD: Being from Jersey , you know, there's a certain -- there's a certain level of toughness, I think, that is bred in us. And we don't get pushed around easily, and we'll fight to the end.
WILLIAMS: That Jersey is New Jersey , North Brunswick , in fact. Howard is the son of an African-American father and a Hungarian soccer mom . He was raised by his mother in a one-bedroom apartment after his parents divorced. Best friend Steve Senior never doubted he'd go far.
Mr. STEVE SENIOR: He knew he was going to get there. And just like everything else, it was always a tough road, but he always overcame his obstacles.
WILLIAMS: At 10 Howard was diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome , a neurological disorder that can cause facial ticks, overcoming it through sheer willpower.
Mr. HOWARD: Playing sports has always been something that has allowed me to take my mind off Tourette's syndrome and focus on other things that I enjoy. And so, you know, as part of who I am now, that's just a -- it's a very small piece.
WILLIAMS: In 2003 , when he moved to play soccer in England , fans ridiculed his Tourette 's, calling him retarded. But after being named top goal scorer in his first season, he was adopted by fans as one of their own. And he's an inspiration to the US soccer team , too.
Mr. CARLOS BOCANEGRA (United States Soccer Team Captain): He's come up big for us so many times, you know. He's the last line of defense.
WILLIAMS: Unassuming off the field, intense and passionate during the game. You describe yourself as a yeller. What do you mean by that?
Mr. HOWARD: A screamer, yeah. Well, just on the field, you know, it's so loud and things are going so quickly out there that I feel like I have to get my point across, and more often than not it's not a whisper. It's more of a threatening yell.
WILLIAMS: Grounded by a strong Christian faith ...
Mr. HOWARD: We all need God in certain ways, you know. And I certainly fall short in a lot of categories. And it's at those times that I need much more help than most.
WILLIAMS: Help he's counting on tomorrow in a World Cup that is, for him, the fulfillment of a dream. Ian Williams , NBC News, Pretoria, South Africa .
LESTER HOLT, anchor: And that's our broadcast for this Thursday night. Thank you for being with us. I'm Lester Holt in for Brian