Geneva Soccer Welcomes Star from English League

By Mellema, Darryl | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), June 9, 2006 | Go to article overview

Geneva Soccer Welcomes Star from English League


Mellema, Darryl, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Darryl Mellema Daily Herald Correspondent

In a way, Jay DeMerit seemed to miss all the usual entry points to a successful professional soccer career.

And yet he likely will be lining up this fall at English stadiums with legendary names such as Anfield and Old Trafford playing against some of the best players in the world.

DeMerit stopped by Geneva's boys soccer summer soccer camp for the second consecutive year on Wednesday to talk with the Vikings boys players about how he made it from Green Bay, Wis., to the English Premier League.

"I wouldn't have changed the path that I took," DeMerit said. "The normal path is that you get with a big soccer club when you're a kid. Then you work to a good college and then you get drafted and work your way up that way."

DeMerit missed every one of those opportunities. One of his messages to Geneva's players Wednesday was to keep working hard.

"I've always had the mindset of putting myself in new situations with new challenges," DeMerit said. "If you can rise above them, you're going to progress. That's how my mind frame took me through this."

From Green Bay to the University of Illinois-Chicago through semiprofessional soccer and finally to Watford Football Club, located just outside London, DeMerit's story has a bit of Horatio Alger to it.

Even in English circles, the move from semipro obscurity to a club that has just earned its way to the English Premier League is a bit unusual.

"Anything's possible," DeMerit said. "The kids here, at their age, if they work hard and want something, you'll only get positive things out of it.

"Some guys might take their foot off the pedal a bit because they think they can," DeMerit said. "You know, maybe they've scored 45 goals in their high school season senior year and they're going to a good college on a full ride. But they've got to realize that when they get to college, the rest of the people are going to be just as good. It's a mindset that you're always starting over and never thinking you're better than anyone else. You've always got something more to do."

The work has paid off for DeMerit. In May, Watford qualified for its divisional playoff, with the playoff victor earning a spot in the Premiership - which is the home to clubs such as Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea.

In front of 64,000 fans in the playoff championship, DeMerit scored the first goal and was named Man of the Match in Watford's 3-0 victory over Leeds United - a squad featuring U.S. national team player Eddie Lewis.

In so doing, DeMerit etched his name into the lore of a team that has been in business since 1881.

"Everyone there talks about the big games that they remember," DeMerit said. "And they'll now talk about 2006, when we got promotion when a lot of people felt we wouldn't."

Watford doesn't roll off many U.S. tongues as a "favorite team." But it is the team pop star Elton John supported as a boy and the team of which he is now the Honorary Life President.

The recording star still loves Watford Football Club and met the team, including DeMerit this year. …

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