NewsMay 01, 2019

Player Profile: DeJuan Jones

New England Revolution midfielder DeJuan Jones is fresh off achieving his first career milestone. In just his fourth start for the Revs the 11th overall draft pick tallied his first professional goal, finding the back of the net in their match against Sporting Kansas City on April 27.

We got to know the Lansing, Michigan native, who shared his path to the MLS and how he has found a mentor—and barber—in one of his teammates. 

What has your path to the MLS been like?

I started playing soccer when I was 5 years old, but throughout my childhood I actually played a lot of different sports. I played basketball, baseball and soccer. I also ran track and field and cross country. In 9th grade I did high school soccer, basketball and track. At that point, my club soccer schedule just got too busy for me to have time to do other sports, so I decided to focus only on soccer. 

My path is a little unique because I think most guys who play in college and turn pro played in the academy system growing up, but I just played with my high school and club team from 10th-12th grade. We won back-to-back state championships my junior and senior year and then I went on to play at Michigan State for four years. 

During college I would spend time in the PDL during the summer, just so I could play at the highest level possible and stay fit. My first year in the PDL was going into my junior year and I went and played with the Myrtle Beach Mutiny. That was a really cool experience and actually was my first time being away from home because I’m from Lansing and went to Michigan State. It was a nice chance to be in a different environment and I think that definitely helped me. It’s important to be uncomfortable sometimes and to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

During your time at Michigan State you majored in Elementary Education, what made you want to pursue that path of study?

I’ve always liked school. When I was growing up, I wasn't a kid who would complain about having to go. In fact, summers actually felt a little too long to me. I was always ready to get back to class. I started working in my church's nursery when I was 10 years old as a volunteer. Every first Sunday of the month I would go in and work with the kids and just try to be a role model for them. That's when I really developed my love for helping children. 

I also got hands on experience teaching kids at soccer camps during high school. I realized I really liked working with kids and I thought what better way to impact kids’ lives and be a role model for them than being a teacher. There was a scholarship available at Michigan State and I was fortunate enough to get it, so it was an easy decision for me. I'm still working towards finishing my degree, but should be done by next year. 

You made a big impression at the Combine, what was your mindset going into that event?

When I got the invite to the Combine, it was a big deal for me. I knew it was an amazing opportunity to get to play in front of all of these coaches. I was looking forward to it and my mindset once I got down there was to take advantage of the opportunity  given to me, because it’s a once in a lifetime chance. 

I worked on different techniques to get ready for the events and also got some tips and tricks from current players. I ended up doing really well on every event, so it was great to be able to show coaches I was athletic before we even started playing soccer. 

I ended up scoring the first goal too, which was great because I was able to show my speed and finishing ability. In the interview process I actually interviewed with 12 out of 24 teams, so it was really nice to feel like there were teams that were interested in me.

What have your first games as a professional been like?

It’s been everything I dreamt it would be. I'm out there and I'm playing against some of the best guys, guys who have been in the league for years. I'm honored to step on the pitch with those guys and my teammates. I'm also lucky because my family has been so supportive of me. When we played in Columbus they all came out and watched me play. 

It’s been one of my dreams to become pro, so to accomplish it is great, but I still have way more I want to do. It’s a grind and it’s hard, but I love the competitive nature of everything.

As a first year player, who do you look to as a mentor?

Everyone in the locker room has been really nice, but a few in particular have been especially helpful. One is Jalil Anibaba, who's been in the league now for almost 10 years. He actually cuts my hair, which is really cool. I was nervous about finding a barber here and he was like ‘Hey, I cut hair.’ I think he’s been doing it for like 12 years, so he’s pretty good. 

Him cutting my hair has turned into me going over to his house, we watch Game of Thrones together and he'll make meals for me. He’s been kind of like a big brother so that’s been really nice. There’s also Brandon Bye, he got drafted the year before me and he went to Western Michigan, so I actually played against him a couple times in high school and college. It's been nice to get to know him better and he even gave me advice for the Combine. Since I’ve gotten here I can always text him any questions and he gives great advice.

Follow DeJuan through his first MLS season on Twitter and Instagram