In case you haven’t heard or maybe just weren’t listening, SOCCER is HERE.
The Well Done Man – Kelyn Rowe
Only from WDB, The Well Done Man is a biographical interview with a Bostonian who is doing exceptional things. It is meant to give our readers insight and knowledge regarding each interviewee’s vision of success and how, beyond their obvious talents, they have reached this point in their lives and careers.
Kelyn Rowe is the New England Revolution’s 2011 first round pick and 3rd player taken overall in the MLS SuperDraft. He was the Pac-12 player the year at UCLA as well as a member of the US national under 21 and under 23 teams. We recently met up with Kelyn on Newbury Street to talk about his new home, what drives him and the journey to becoming an elite U.S. soccer player.
When did you catch the bug for soccer?
My parent’s joke, and it’s a running joke, was that when I first starting walking I tripped over a soccer ball. There was always one around the house. My mom was a really good player and my dad was a great athlete too. When I was ten years old my dad, who is a high school teacher, took me to see a UW soccer game and to watch one of his old students play against UCLA. I just loved it and after the game I told my dad I wanted to go to UCLA and be a professional soccer player. His advice was, you better work really hard. That was the first time I really knew that this was something I wanted to do.
So when did you feel like that started to become a reality?
I played a year up most of my youth career and then finally when I was 15 I dropped down to my own age group and I just felt really good. I really felt like I was one of the top players at that time. We had a really good regional team too and you start to see the same people over and over again. I also played on the Olympic Development Team when I was 16 and you just started to see a pattern, we all kind of knew on that team that we were going to be ok. Then when you go to college and get into a good program like UCLA you know that they have the coaches and system to help you go somewhere after.
When I was growing up and playing soccer competitively there really wasn’t a path to becoming a professional in America. Fast forward to 2015, I get a sense that soccer in the U.S. is changing very quickly. Can you speak to that a little bit?
I definitely see it and talking to the veteran guys you hear it as well. Imagine a guy like Chris Tierney who was a development player out of college and had to really work his way onto the team to someone like Diego Fagundez who has been under contract since he was 15. These days there’s so many different ways to get into league and I think that’s what they want. Generation Adidas especially was huge because it gave players a goal, to make that team. It also showed us that it’s ok to leave college and play professionally because it let you know that teams wanted you and also gave players $45k a year towards tuition and finishing college. So it really set you up for the rest of your life. When I was growing up, you had to go to Europe but the shift since then has been drastic and Generation Adidas made that possible. It’s crazy to think that at 23 I’m older than the MLS. I think in another 5 years you’re going to see an even bigger change and our league will be able to compete with any league in the world.
Can you describe the feeling of being drafted by the Revs at number 3 overall?
So being Generation Adidas I knew that I was going to go first round but you really have no idea when. I was actually at the under 23 U.S. camp and we were watching it on TV. I literally saw my name and then got a call from Jay Heaps. So I was actually just watching it like everybody else. It was pure excitement and shock really…I had met the whole coaching staff the week before at the combine but I had no idea they were going pick me. I was incredibly happy.
You’ve had a ton of success everywhere you’ve been from PAC 12 player of the year at UCLA, on the U.S. Development teams and now starting your career here in New England…what would you say is the next goal in your soccer career?
There are multiple goals that I want to accomplish but one is definitely to have as many assists as I do goals. 10 goals and 10 assists. It’s hard to do because sometimes it’s out of your control. That’s sort of a mini goal but looking 3-5 years down the road I definitely want to be an MLS All-Star and get back to the national team. There are lots of talented guys in front of me though like Clint Dempsey or Graham Zusi so it will be hard. But I have faith in myself and I feel that if I work hard it will happen.
I’m a huge Soccer fan and would probably say my favorite player to watch is Lionel Messi…do you have a player that you emulate or enjoy watching the most?
Messi is the best in the world but really I love watching the front three of Barcelona together. I know I’m not going to be Lionel Messi on the ball but I can watch that group of players and emulate the movement, the space they find and the type of shots they make. For me it’s not about one player it’s about watching the team and how they move. I like to think by now I have the skill to play but I need to have all the little things as well like spacing and the timing of my runs, where is the touch going and how far away it is from my body. I really enjoy watching that team and how they put it all together.
One thing I saw Barcelona do that was incredible, was both Iniesta and Xavi both had a 95% passing accuracy in a Champions League game, which is basically the best league in the world. That’s really stunning when you think about the competition they are playing and the dangerous areas that they are playing the ball into. That was absolutely incredible.
Growing up did you have a mentor or someone who pushed you to be the best you can be?
My Mom was my soccer mentor growing up. She was both my biggest fan and my biggest critic. Her and my Dad. They helped me get through a lot and helped me get better. On the field growing up I really admired Brian McBride, he was just so tough.
Also, I have a friend named Houston Kraft back in Seattle who had a lot of faith in my ability and always told me that as a professional I would have a choice to be a positive role model or a negative one. He has a program called Choose Love and is also a motivation speaker. The work he does is awesome.
So you grew up just outside Seattle, have you fully adjusted to life in Boston?
So when I first came to Boston, it was January and I showed up without a winter jacket so I kind of dropped the ball on that one. In Seattle, we have bad weather but it doesn’t really snow and the temperature never really goes below 40 so it was kind of difficult. This winter was the hardest winter of my life. I had to dig out my parking spot in Charlestown twice a day. When born and raised Boston people are telling you they can’t take the winter and you’re dumping snow into the river, you know it’s done. I’m always giving it to Dorman who’s from the UK and local boy Chris Tierney. We’re all in hats and gloves and those guys are running around in t-shirts.
Seattle is my home and most of my friends and family are all still out there. Also California is where I went to school so that west coast means a lot to me. I always tell people about the mornings in Seattle, they’re just gorgeous. There’s always a slight breeze, usually sunny, you can have a cup of coffee and look out at the mountains. I grew up just south of Seattle and on the right side of my parent’s porch you can see Mt Rainier. Seattle is just a beautiful and relaxing place. On the other side, I’m glad I get this culture change because it’s different out here and I get to see so many other great cities.
Did you have some mixed emotions during the Super Bowl?
Yes, very torn. First I’m a big Tom Brady fan. He’s just a class act, the best of all time. So that was hard when you have to go against Tom Brady and the guy who pays my checks, also all of the local boys on the team. So I chicken out of wearing my Seahawks jersey to the stadium but we were in Arizona when the game went off and I did wear it watch the game. Man, I thought we had it in the bag.
What do you like to do off the pitch? How do you unwind?
I love live music. In Seattle they have it on every corner. They even have live music at the airport. I just saw Imagine Dragons at the TD Garden, they’re amazing. Actually the whole band expect for the lead singer went to Berkeley School of Music here in Boston. I’m also big into Spotify right now, I’ll throw on a play list and I’m usually listening to something acoustic.
I’ve noticed you’re very active with charity work. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Absolutely. Our team does hospital visits once every month or so and I’ve done every one. One thing people don’t realize is that when you visit kids it seems like it’s just for them, and it does cheer them up and puts a smile on their face, but I really feel like that’s for us too. It brings you back down to earth and also cheers you up if you’re in a low. It really humbles you. These kids really do more for us than we do for them.
A college buddy of mine has a foundation in California called the Jessie Rees Foundation and they have a program called NEGU (Never ever give up) and it’s a way for kids with pediatric cancer to feel supported, team up with a player and get them out of the hospital. My team is called Kelyn’s NEGU crew and it’s really cool. We’ve done five different game day events where one of my kids comes to the game, they get down on the field before to see warm ups and get their own jersey but the real magic is after the game. After the game they get to walk around the field and have the fans cheer for him. This last game there was a kid named Grayson and we walked around the entire field and when we got to the supporter section they all cheered his named. I asked him if he heard what they were saying and he said “yeah that’s my name.” It was the most amazing feeling.
Are you excited about the prospect of getting a stadium in the city? I know I am.
Very excited, we would really like to see it happen. A stadium in the city would be huge not just because it’s local and fun and we’d increase our fan base but for us it’s really a movement, not only the Revs but the league itself. We see it growing more and more around the country so we know it’s worth it and it would give us that feeling here that this is going to be around for a while.
The Revs started the season pretty hot then you cooled off and now it looks like you guys might be ready to go on another run…do you feel like the team is in a good position to make another run at the Cup?
Yeah we got ice cold for a while there and we’ve put ourselves in a tough spot but yes the way we are playing now, I think we are starting to play like we did at the end of last year. We are a very good team and I believe we are starting to realize that again. It’s not easy after a hard run like that, mentally and for the moral of the team. The fact that we are playing well now and have so much room for improvement as well as getting Jermaine Jones back soon. We just need to stay above that redline and make the playoffs because I feel like seeding is not a huge factor. I think we are definitely ready to make another run at it.