Cross The Line connected with Colorado Rapids defender, Jared Watts as he talks about how God has been a huge part of his life as a professional soccer player.
Tell us about your journey into professional soccer, where did it all start for you?
“I am from a small town in North Carolina. Soccer was not a popular sport while I was growing up there. Most kids play the more common American sports, Basketball, American Football, and Baseball. I grew up playing these sports as well, but fell in love with soccer at an early age. I have two older brothers who played soccer and I wanted to follow in their footsteps, as all younger brothers want to do. I always had a soccer ball at my feet, and was always working at my game. I received a regulation size soccer goal when I was 8 and we were able to set up a mini pitch in our back yard. That is where my brothers and I would spend hours playing. Being the youngest, I was always trying to be better than my brothers. They pushed me to work my hardest and not be afraid to compete. I began to play on travel team when I was 10 to go play against better competition. I always tried to play with older kids so I could improve my game.
I eventually worked my way up to the U-14 US National Team and played with them up until the U-20 Team. I spent two and a half years in Bradenton, Florida with the U-17 National team to work towards a U-17 World Cup in 2009. I was able to captain that team in the Tournament in Nigeria, but the Italians knocked us out of the tournament.
I transitioned to college and attended Wake Forest University for 4 years. This is one of the best college soccer programs in the United States. I always have valued education as well, so I graduated with a degree in Communications. My only goal in school was to use it to develop and have the opportunity to play in the MLS. I finished school, and was drafted #33 overall by the Colorado Rapids in the 2014 MLS Super draft. I am currently in my third year with the Club.”
How hard is it to make it as a professional soccer player?
“It is hard to make it as a professional soccer player, but as any goal you set in life, you have to be willing to make sacrifices and work hard to achieve your dream. Many players have the skill, speed, power, and athleticism to be a great soccer player. Professional players have the mental strength, willingness to take criticism, and completive drive to be successful. It is for sure a process, and you have to work at it everyday.”
How much are you enjoying your time at Colorado Rapids?
“I love being at Colorado Rapids. The club is a great organisation from top to bottom. This club believes in me as a player, and gave me my first opportunity to sign a professional contract.
We are a club that works hard for one another. I love being out on the field and representing our fans and organization. I will never take that for granted. It is really cool to share a locker room with a guy like Tim Howard and Kevin Doyle. I look up to these players and try to learn from them because of what they have accomplished in their careers.”
For those people who may not know, can you describe to us what you are like as a player?
“I play as a centre back or as a holding midfielder. I do not really like to talk about myself. The best characteristic about my game is my competitiveness. I am an aggressive player who tries to read and anticipate the game. I am a hard tackler who plays simple passes and I try to get the ball to the play-makers. My favourite players in the world are Yohan Cabaye and Mats Hummels.”
Who is the best player you’ve played against and why?
“I played against Neymar and Philippe Coutinho when we played Brazil while I was with the U-17 US National Team. The best players I have played against in the MLS are Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard. I was playing centre back against Keane, so we were able to battle all game.
The way he “thinks” the game is incredible. His movement off the ball and ability in front of goal is impressive. It was a really cool experience to play against guys like him and Gerrard because I grew up following these players and wanted to emulate the way they played.”
When you’re not on the soccer field, how do you like to relax?
“While I am not on the soccer field, I enjoy doing a lot of different things in Denver. I have a 2 year old dog who I enjoy taking on hikes and to the dog parks. I like to read as well. I have taught myself to play guitar, although I am not that good! I like to play golf with guys on the team when we have free time. I am a massive NBA, NFL, and EPL fan. My favourite teams are the Charlotte Hornets, Carolina Panthers, and West Ham United. I also enjoy spending time with my fiancé.”
What’s the best thing about being a professional soccer player?
“The best thing about being a professional soccer player is competing with a group of guys who are all working towards a common goal. I enjoy training and being with the team on a day-to-day basis. I love being able to travel and play in different cities around the USA as well. I also enjoy life long friendships that are made with team-mates.”
How did you become a Christian?
“I became a Christian when I was 12 years old. I grew up in a Baptist church and my family was very involved. My grandfather had a massive influence on my faith and becoming a Christian. I remember from him I learned what it meant to have a relationship with the Lord and I was then baptised on 12th December, 2004.”
How has God been using you in the world of soccer?
“It’s incredible to reflect back on my life and see how God has used soccer in my life. He has brought me key mentors in my life through soccer. My experience with the team Chaplin with the national team and the team Chaplin for the Rapids helps to keep me accountable. They are strong examples of what it means to walk in faith.
Being a professional soccer player, I am offered a platform at times that lets me speak about my faith. I have also used social media as a platform to reach and share my faith. I have been able to be involved in my community in Denver off the field as well. The past two off seasons here in Colorado, I have been involved with a futsal program centred on faith and a weekly message from the Bible. It has been called trinity football and it has been a great chance for me to speak into kids’ lives. I think that life, as a professional player, isn’t easy. We are in the squad some games, we struggle through injuries, and deal with changing teams and team-mates. I try to let my actions speak for my faith. God has put me in Colorado for a reason. God has blessed me with the game of soccer.”
Do you see soccer as a way of worship and why? How do you share your faith through soccer?
“I do see soccer as a way of worship. God has blessed me with certain skills and opportunity within the game. I try to play with such passion and not take anything for granted with the game. I have always looked at the game like this, soccer is what I do, but it is not who I am. I love this game and it has given me so much in my life, but I know my true purpose in life.
I keep a perspective of playing to glorify the Lord. I pray before every game, but not to win that game. I pray that I play hard and glorify God and let the game be done with no serious injuries for any player. Anything can be done as a way of worship if it is done with a clear vision. We can be a light for Him wherever we are in our lives. I believe worship is how we react to God and the way he is working in our life.”
Favourite bible verse?
“Jeremiah 29:11 has been my life long verse. I have it tattooed on my back. John 3:16 is the greatest story ever told. I was heavily impacted by this verse when I was with the national team. I was able to help and be apart of a ministry called J3:16. Our chaplain Butch Morley has this incredible ministry that uses this verse through colourful soccer balls that all have meaning.”