ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – Rowdies attacker Darwin Jones didn’t follow the traditional path to a career in soccer.
While most professional footballers grew up watching the game and playing it at a young age, Jones didn’t start until the age of 12, saying that he knew he had started later than most.
He was first introduced to the game by his friends.
“It was just something different at the time and I enjoyed it,” Jones said, while standing on the field after a Thursday afternoon practice. “All my friends played it and I was just getting better and better rapidly, so I just stuck with it.”
Jones looks up to fellow soccer players, American forward Clint Dempsey and Nigerian international Obafemi Martins.
“I kind of play similar to both of them I think,” Jones said. “I try to mimic my game off of them because they’re both technical, they’re both good finishers and are smart players.”
The 24 year-old from Chicago, Ill., had spent his entire 12 year career playing with teams based in the Washington area, but signed with the Rowdies in January.
When Jones signed, the Rowdies also signed 25-year-old Leo Fernandes and 23-year-old Damion Lowe.
All three young players work together to make each other’s game better.
“If we’re going to be playing together it’s best to learn each other’s game, work hard and push each other,” Jones said. “That’s all we try to do, push each other to get better so we can translate it into games.”
He also looks to the older players on the team for advice.
“I always talk to the older guys just to see what they’ve got to say about my game,” Jones said. “They’ve played in Europe and that’s always every soccer player’s goal, to play over in Europe. So I talk to all of that guys who have been over there.”
His advice to kids who may have started late in soccer is to work on all aspects of their game.
“Work on your touches, your juggling, dribbling, runs off the ball and then everything else will just fall into place,” Jones said. “The main thing is just to have fun and don’t worry about what someone else has to say.”