Monday, June 17, 2024

From Lansing to soccer's biggest stage: Former MSU star DeJuan Jones on making the U.S. men's national team

March 7, 2023
Senior forward DeJuan Jones (6) on the field during the game at DeMartin Stadium on Aug. 24, 2018. Jones in one of three captains this season. The Spartans defeated the Bulls 1-0.
Senior forward DeJuan Jones (6) on the field during the game at DeMartin Stadium on Aug. 24, 2018. Jones in one of three captains this season. The Spartans defeated the Bulls 1-0.

Lansing native DeJuan Jones didn't have to travel too far to play college soccer. The 25-year-old spent three seasons as an attacking winger for Michigan State before accomplishing his dreams by joining the United States men's national soccer team. Jones has made two appearances for the USMNT since being called up.

“It was an incredible honor,” Jones said. “Something that I've dreamed of since I first started playing the sport when I was five years old. So to have that moment with my family in the stands, it's really hard to describe. Everything you work so hard for, I feel like it's all coming together. And just to play for the whole country, you feel a special sense of pride and get a special energy. When you're playing with the US jersey, It's an amazing feeling.” 

Living in the Lansing area his entire life, Jones said it was very special to make such a big jump to show other kids that aren’t just from Lansing, but also the state of Michigan, that they can achieve their dreams too. 

“It's amazing, I feel like I can really be a role model to people from the Lansing area, people that are from East Lansing, people that went to Michigan State,” Jones said. “So it's cool to, kind of show the path that it's possible and just continue to grow and take my game to the next levels and show kids that are in Michigan that they can do it if they work hard and stay dedicated and believe in themselves.”

Jones has always been confident in his abilities to make the national team. His former coach and current MSU head men’s soccer coach, Damon Rensing, has been confident as well, as he was not surprised when he heard Jones got the call up.

“DeJuan always was an exceptional athlete and had a knack for doing things on the field and scoring goals,” Rensing said. “He was really competitive and he had some tools that would translate at any level, but I think he had to work on some technical abilities and some decision making through college and to his credit, he was one of the hardest workers we had in our program, and I think when you combine his gifts of athleticism with his ability to work on his feet, now that you look back at it I’m not surprised.” 

Jones said that his time in East Lansing helped him prepare for MLS which is where he finds himself currently with the New England Revolution.

“My time at Michigan State was great,” Jones said. “The jump from high school soccer and my club team to college was big. The first couple of weeks adjusting to the speed of the game was difficult but again, the staff at Michigan State, Damon Rensing, did a great job, helped that transition and my game get to a level where I could make it to the MLS. I credit the staff at Michigan State for preparing me for this moment.” 

While Jones thrived in his role as an attacker, leading MSU his senior year to semifinals of the 2018 College Cup, Rensing has been impressed by just how much he has grown in his role as a defender since making the jump to the professional ranks. 

“I think he's really grown as far as his comfort on the ball,” Rensing said. He's actually a really good defender. And then he's continued to impact the final third, which has been great.” 

While Jones made only two appearances, playing around 118 minutes of combined action, his goal is to be back with the team on a consistent basis. 

“It's hard enough to get there,” Jones said. “But to stay there, that is another challenge. I got to have a good season with the Revs but I definitely want to be back in the national team picture and my goal is to become a regular with the team.”

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