It's a strange thought to think that one of Sporting Kansas City's charter academy teams has almost come full circle and completed the youth program cycle. What's stranger is that most of the players on these teams will be heading off to a Division 1 school this fall after the last little bit of the 2012 spring season. The academy's success can be seen as a testament to youth coaches Paul Rideout's and John Parry's vision for the future - Sporting KC's future that is.
Another testament to that same vision could possibly be seen in youth academy player Eric DeJulio. DeJulio has been one of the ever-present players in that same U15 charter team I was referring to earlier. DeJulio started and appeared in all 6 games played by Sporting KC in the 2011 fall season - the only player to do so. The 6'2" center back has come a long way in his development as a footballer and signed for Creighton University a couple of days ago.
I recently had the pleasure of asking this exciting prospect a few questions.
How did you get involved into Sporting KC's youth system and how old were you when you first joined?
Before I was able to join Sporting KC Juniors I played for Peter Vermes and Jon Parry at the Blue Valley Soccer Club on the Newcastle Team where we were KS State Champs. When I was old enough, age 14 and a freshman in High school, I tried out for the U16 team and was one of the youngest players on the team. Jon Parry was the Wizards Juniors Coach then, and I have been playing ever since.
How would you describe your game-play and what's the best thing you can bring to a team?
I am a strong central defender who is very good in the air and commands our defense out of the back. In addition, I am confident on the ball. The best thing I bring to the team is leadership, a desire to win, and to push my teammates.
Some people have described you as one of the most promising prospects to ever emerge from Sporting KC's youth academy. What's been the key to your success?
My huge passion for the game, desire to succeed, and my competitiveness have been my ultimate keys for success. Every time I put my cleats on and my Sporting KC Jersey I give everthing I have to win and get better as a player.
I think some people are a little in the dark of what the Juniors actually do. Can you give us a basic run down of your week (in terms of practices and games and such)?
During the season for the U16's & 18's, we practice four times per week with one of these days just doing strength and conditioning. In season, we practice 3 times per week and then typically travel on Friday to wherever we play a game on Saturday, and then travel back home on Sunday night. When we are on the road we bring our school work with us.
Did you ever play in reserve league games for Sporting KC?
I was a sub in 4 reserve games this past year while playing the entire second half in a game against the Chicago Fire.
Youth academies are something relatively new in the MLS. How do you think Sporting KC's stacks up against other ones around the league?
I think Sporting KC is right up there at the top compared to the other academies. I think our performance on the field and the way our academy team is run is superior to a lot of the other academy teams.
Obviously we all know you had verbally committed to Creighton but what was it like on National Signing Day?
My signing day was awesome! It was something that I dreamed of every day for the past 4 years ever since I saw my older brother sign to play American "Football" for the United States Air Force Academy.
Were there any other schools you were looking at?
I looked at a number of schools, but it came down to Creighton, Michigan, and St. Louis University
What will you be majoring in at Creighton, or if you're not certain, what field do you want to go into if soccer doesn't work out?
I will be majoring in Business at Creighton.
What made Creighton stand out from the rest of them?
Everything about Creighton stood out to me but most importantly it was their ability to develop players that can play professionally. A good example of that is Seth Sinovic and the 4 players this year taken in the draft.
In 4 years time you will have the chance to be drafted to a MLS club, what would it mean to you to be drafted by Sporting Kansas City?
It would mean everything in the world to me to be drafted by Sporting KC. I have a great love and a sense of pride for the club and everything the club stands for.
What are your other hobbies when you're not playing soccer?
Outside of soccer I love to spend time with my family and friends, and relaxing whenever I have time to.