A lot of NFL football fans love to make fun of soccer. It’s a sport for little foreigners running around in shorts. It’s boring. There’s not enough scoring. It’s a crazy, no-hands sport where you purposely use your head – literally.
Well, regardless of what you think of soccer, you have to support your country, right? During the Olympics, you watched figure skating and rooted for the Americans, right? Well, maybe not figure skating, but you get my point.
But besides rooting for your country, Green Bay Packer fans have an additional reason to be watching when the USA plays England in their opening match on Saturday, June 12 (2:30ET). And that reason is a devoted Green Bay Packer fan named Jay Demerit.
Jay Demerit is a starting central defender for the USA Mens Team. Demerit is also an obsessed Packer fan just like you or I. Despite playing professional soccer in England, Demerit watched every Packer game but three. Whether on SKY TV or live streamed over the internet, Demerit made sure to seek out Packer games at every opportunity, only missing a game when he had, well, a soccer game to play.
Demerit is a Green Bay native, a Sconnie, a beer and brat loving product of the Green Bay school system. A three sport star at Bay Port High School, Demerit earned varsity letters in three sports; football, soccer, and track and field.
Like any boy playing HS football in Green Bay, his dream would have been to play in legendary Lambeau Field. While that was not to be, he will now be playing on the biggest international sporting stage, the FIFA World Cup.
What makes his story even better is the fact that his ascension to the National team is as unlikely a story as you’ll ever see. It would be like a young kid from England coming to the USA, making it onto the Packers and end up starting in the Super Bowl. Yes, that improbable.
Jay Demerit played soccer at the University of Illinois – Chicago for four years. Upon graduation, he was ignored in the Major League Soccer (MLS) draft. In addition, no team would even give him a tryout. But Demerit was undeterred.
He emptied his bank account of $1800, bought a plane ticket to England, and was determined to follow his crazy dream. He slept in the attic of a friend’s house and played in pub leagues and other very-low level leagues. He eventually made it onto a Southhall team 8 levels below the English Premier League (EPL) where he was payed a whopping $30 a week,
But Demerit kept at it. He worked harder than anyone else and moved up a few levels to a slightly better team, He showed enough there to got noticed by Watford, a 2nd division team in the EPL. He was invited to a tryout, eventually was offered a contract and earned significant game minutes playing in real soccer stadiums, in front of paying customers.
Demerit had an excellent season, and capped it off with a magical moment. Watford had won enough games to be considered for promotion to the first division of EPL, where world-renowned teams like Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal ply their trade.
In a playoff game against Leeds, which would decide which team advances to the first division, Jay Demerit scored the game-winning goal to the sheer delight of all of Watford. That moment in Watford history is now known as the “10 million pound goal” – the estimated financial reward tiny Watford would earn for playing in the first division.
Of Demerit, USA National Team coach Bob Bradley says, “Jay could have given up and done something else with his life. He is an intelligent guy who would have been a success in whatever he decided to do. It gives you a warm feeling to see someone like that, who just went out there and backed themselves, getting rewarded.”
As Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated wrote in this article, “How many Yanks go from mid-major college soccer to starting in the Premier League? From not being drafted by MLS to scoring a historic goal in front of 65,000 fans last May? From toiling in obscurity–DeMerit had never played for a U.S. team at any level–to staring down renowned strikers such as Thierry Henry, Wayne Rooney and Andriy Shevchenko?”
“Jay DeMerit came from nothing and made a decision to be something,” says Aidy Boothroyd, the Watford manager. “He’s the Rocky Balboa of English football.”
So anti-soccer Packer fans, do you need any other reasons? Are you ready to put your soccer prejudices aside, root for a Green Bay hometown boy and cheer on the USA? What, you need more Packer-related reasons? OK, here goes:
You haven’t seen Jay Demerit’s name in a Wisconsin newspaper recently for being an ass.
Despite being a professional athlete playing another sport in another country, he makes every effort he can to watch every Packers game.
Elton John (Watford’s former President), sought him out to ask his opinion of whether Brett Favre should leave the Packers. (Evidently, Elton John is a friend of Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and showed up wearing two Super Bowl rings, letting Demerit try one on). Pretty cool.
Jay Demerit takes a “Packers Quiz” and aces it. (for you doubters…)
If it makes you feel better, technically, Demerit is a “Football” player.
Good enough? So I’m calling on all of you out there in Packer Nation that would normally never watch a soccer game. Bite the bullet, watch the USA play, root for Jay Demerit, root for your country and keep an open mind. Who knows, you might even enjoy it.
More Jay Demerit stuff:
Jay Demerit’s Facebook Page (come on Packer fans, give him a “like”)——————
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.