Feb. 16, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. --- When Lobo head coach Jeremy Fishbein took the helm of the men's soccer program 10 years ago, the success that would ensue was unpredictable. Since taking the program to new heights, one could argue that Fishbein has seen just about everything, including a decade's worth of former players pursuing their dreams within and outside the realm of soccer.
For former Lobo Andrew Weber though, "livin' the dream" has put him in the spotlight both on the soccer pitch, as well as on reality television. Weber - currently a goalkeeper for the MLS Seattle Sounders - has become an entertainer to say the least. Not only has he clearly made good on his goal of playing in the MLS, but Weber will also make his reality TV debut this Sunday, Feb. 19, when season 20 of The Amazing Race airs on CBS.
Created by Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, "The Amazing Race" sends 11 teams on a trek around the world. Each team is comprised of two people who have a pre-existing relationship with one another. At every destination, each Team competes in a series of challenges -- some mental and some physical -- and when the tasks have been completed, they learn their next destination. Teams who are farthest behind will gradually be eliminated as the contest progresses, with the first team to arrive at the final destination winning $1 million.
This season's Racers will endure one of the most competitive courses ever, as they find themselves skydiving in Argentina, training with the Masai warriors in Tanzania, racing through Africa's "Garden of Eden," putting their taste buds to the test with one of Italy's most popular cuisines and searching for King Ludwig's quarters in the German castle that served as the inspiration for the castle in "Sleeping Beauty."
For those who know Weber personally, there couldn't be a more appealing challenge. The combination of travel, athleticism and reality TV would obviously appeal to Weber's competitive and inherently entertaining personality.
No one can attest to this better than Fishbein.
"Weber is a real character", Fishbein said. "Andrew is like a cat, he always lands on his feet. He's got things going for him -- smart, charismatic, good looking and a professional athlete.
"Most importantly, Webs has a big heart and is loyal to his family and friends," Fishbein continued. "He's the kind of guy everyone loves being around."
One of the things that Weber had going for him was undoubtedly his career as a Lobo. Weber was at New Mexico from 2001-04, spending one year having Fishbein in an assistant coach capacity before his campaign season as head coach. Over the course of his time at New Mexico, Weber wrought havoc on the record books. He currently holds the top spot in program history for career wins with 50, and his 2002 season is now in a three-way tie for most wins in a season with 18.
"I was never trying to be someone that I wasn't," Weber said. "I think I definitely showed passion on the field."
His 0.55 goals-against-average had sat in the No. 1 spot until just this season, when Victor Rodriguez's 0.50 GAA topped it. Additionally, he has 350 career saves over 83 games. This is the most individual career games played in program history and a stat that just two other Lobos - current assistant coach Brandon Moss, and Ben Ashwill - have to their credit.
It's no secret that team chemistry has always been a key component to the Lobo soccer program's success, especially since the inception of the Fishbein era. "I was one of two [from the original class] who played all four years," Weber said. "And that team, that group that I was a part of - we had the right chemistry."
No one is quite sure what it is about Fishbein's coaching style that facilitates such chemistry and success. It's like there is a unique and unspoken understanding of loyalty and dedication between players who have been coached by Fish. There's no doubt though that Weber witnessed the magic alongside Moss, Ashwill, and several other notable Lobos that comprised some of Fish's earlier teams.
"He's a really unique guy," Weber said of Fishbein. "He knows what he wants, and he's very intuitive. He sees right through people. He's a good leader and works hard, and wants the best.
"It's funny, he knew how to bring us together," Weber continued. "He surrounded himself with a staff that knew how to bring us together. He's a good judge of character."
So you've got a wildly talented, now professional soccer player with a great passion for competition, and a fierce loyalty to his friends and teammates. Not a bad candidate for the likes of "The Amazing Race."
Not to mention, there's two of him.
Well, sort of. Andrew Weber has a twin brother, Elliot Weber, the second half of "The Amazing Race" team. It was Elliot who planted the idea for the duo to make a run at the challenge.
Like Andrew, Elliot is outgoing and entertaining, but laid back at the same time. He is the lead singer in a band called Enova, an American hard rock band based out of Phoenix, Ariz. Enova is described as "a powerful and dynamic force influenced by bands such as Chevelle and Incubus. They exist freely between heavy and melodic, while always staying sincere and powerful." The band's first single "Counterpart" will be featured on Sunday's premiere of "The Amazing Race."
"Elliot actually approached me with the idea, so we started sending in videos over the years of the two of us interacting and entertaining," Weber said. "Finally we got called in for an interview with the executives at CBS."
And honestly, how could they be turned away? The combination of a professional soccer player and a rockstar, the enigma of identical twins with chill personalities but competitive spirits - it had to have been a lock from the start.
"While we were growing up, everything was super competitive," Andrew said. "Whether it was who could run faster, swim farther, read better - everything was a competition. As we started getting older, we realized that we were stronger as a team."
This was exactly the type of relationship that appealed to CBS when executives set the cast for the upcoming season, and the opportunity was beyond appealing to the brothers.
"It meant a lot to be on `The Amazing Race,' the opportunity to travel the world with my brother was great," Elliot said. "[It was great] being able to spend some quality time together, because we don't get to see each other that much."
Spending quality time together meant learning about one another because, even after 28 years, there are still things to be learned about an identical twin.
"We are identical twins, so we are a lot alike," Elliot said. "Our mannerisms are a lot alike. We both come from professional environments, but I feel that I am a little more aggressive than he is.
"We don't get to spend much time together, so our relationship is strong, but not as strong as it could have been," Elliot continued. "It is something we have been building on since The Race.
"The show definitely brought my brother and I closer together," he said. "On the Race, my eyes were opened to things that I could change. I learned to be patient."
Andrew agrees that the competition showed both of them that they are stronger as teammates.
"It's not always about being right," Andrew said. "We both learned that we need to cut our pride a little bit. Elliot's my twin brother and I love him to death, so it definitely brought us closer together."
Right now, Andrew Weber is in Florida training with the Sounders. Come Sunday evening, he and his team will be in front of the TV though, watching his reality television debut.
"Yeah I'll definitely be watching it with my team!" Weber said. "It was such an amazing experience - I never thought I'd do anything like that. Words can't explain how incredibly eye-opening it was.
"The biggest thing I took away from it was that sometimes, we take things for granted and forget that we are lucky to have the things that we do."
So what comes next for the MLS player and his rocker brother?
Elliot's focus now is Enova, his self-envisioned band project.
"Right now I'm really focused on professional soccer," Andrew said. "But I'm open to all sorts of opportunities. I'm just living this dream right now. Maybe I'll coach someday. I'd like to somehow help pro soccer reach Arizona so, we'll see what happens."
This is an answer that epitomizes Andrew Weber according to Fishbein - just a guy livin' the dream, doing big things, and enjoying life. At the same time though, both Webers continue to demonstrate the ideals of teamwork, loyalty, and competition that Fishbein has instilled in his players from day one. While the mystery of the $1 million winners remains, one sure prize for both Andrew and Elliot was the experience alone, a prize that is most definitely intangible.
Pictured: Top Row LtoR: Brothers Andrew & Elliot Weber, Cousins Kerri Paul & Stacy Bowers, Best Friends Bopper Minton & Mark Jackson, Dating couple Brendon Villegas & Rachel Reilly (kneeling), Army couple Rachel & Dave Brown, Sisters Misa & Maiya Tanaka, Boarder Patrol Agents JJ Carrell & Art Velez; Seated, LtoR: Dating Divorcees Vanessa Macias & Ralph Kelley, Married Clowns David & Cherie Gregg, Federal Agents Nary Ebeid & Jamie Graetz, Gym Buddies Joey "Fitness" Lasalla & Danny Horal Photo: Robert Voets/ CBS Â©2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.