17 January 2007

Jay Needham: The DCenters Interview

The DCenters caught up with DC United's first pick of the third round over the phone while he was in LA. He claims he was visiting his girlfriend "before it gets all crazy," but we think he was there to egg the new Beckham estate. Regardless, Jay was more than willing to answer our questions, and anyone willing to talk with us is okay in our book. Jay was refreshingly honest and articulate. We had actually planned to ask the first question below sixth, but after we had mentioned how happy we were to see him drafted, he was more than willing to address his draft position. Oh, and assuming that Mr. Steinberg works for us is always a plus.

After what was reportedly a great combine for you, with observers noting at various times that you were a "rock that read the game very well" and the "best pure defender in the class" are you surprised that so many other teams took a pass on you?

People thought I fell. I did too. There were mixed emotions. But to end up with DC United, that's a perfect team with great tradition. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that? I was talking to my agent about it, about the draft, and reading Buzz Carrick. In his mock draft, he had me first round with DC United. At least he got the team right, even it was the third round.

So, yeah, I was a little surprised. There were a few anxious moments. A lot of people's big issue with me was my pace, which I'm trying to fix. It was kind of stressful, but when I got picked up by DC-- my Dad and I knew it was the best place. You think of Bobby Boswell, MLS Defender of the Year, who wasn't even drafted. This is the right place for me.

What was the first thing the DCU people said to you at the draft?

I wasn't actually at the draft. I watched the draft in Texas with my family. I talked on the phone with Coach Soehn. He said that it was "Important to come into camp in shape. Have your head on right." That sort of thing.

Have you moved to the area yet? How much does DCU help in getting you acclimatized to DC? Find places for you to rent, board you with other players. Tell you where the hangouts are?

Funny you ask me that. I'm flying up there Sunday night. The rookies come up and train a little earlier, and we're put up in a hotel. Three weeks in DC, then two weeks in Florida. So I'll find a place to live then, but I'll be in a hotel for awhile.

When did you know you wanted to be a professional player?

I've always played sports as a kid, and it is something I love to do. Baseball, football, basketball. Always wanted soccer as a career. It's kind of a cliche to say "all my life," but it's true.

Did you have offers or think about going overseas?

No, I had talked to my agent a little bit about it, and there are always offers of people who are willing to set something up. You know, those kind of offers that people will make. But there was always a vibe that something important would happen to MLS, and with Beckham coming it really is there now. So this is the best time, when there's a buzz about the league.

Who is your favorite player either MLS or elsewhere in the world?

Steven Gerrard. I love the way he is very loyal to Liverpool, which is one of my favorite teams. I love the way he works hard. Liverpool is one my favorite teams. Everything about Gerrard, the pace, the power, the way he presses forward.

[I'm pretty sure that with this answer, Jay has assured himself positive treatment in every Screaming Eagles Podcast from now on.]

Have you met any of the other DCU players yet?

No, not yet. I haven't met anyone ever. [Teammate Chase Wileman] apparently met Ben Olsen and Bobby Boswell.

What do you feel you bring to the game, and what aspect of your play are you most hoping to improve?

In terms of strength: Consistency. I think it's something I proved at SMU, there are very few days I feel like that are off days. I bring poise, calm, the ability to read stuff, see stuff before it happens. I'll have to adjust to the speed of play certainly.

At the end of the 2007 season, what do you hope to have accomplished?

Hopefully be seeing regular playing time, a roster spot. Everyone wants to be rookie of the year, but I want everyone to say we won an MLS cup, and I was a part of the team and not hassling the team.

What do you want people to know about you other than "Jay Needham, Defender"?

I'm just a normal, easy-going guy. Nothing too complex. I like to have a good time.
Your major?

Double major in economics and international markets.

Are you more of a free trader or a Marxist?

[Laughs] More of a free trader.

You know, the local media love players with personality, and DC has Gilbert Arenas and United has people like Eskandarian and Nick Rimando whose exploits are now almost legendary. Do you have a favorite exotic cheese yet? It will help you with some of the local media personalities if you do.

No. It's funny you ask. My girlfriend was trying to get me to try some cheeses. I'll definitely have to look into it now. See if she still has some. I'll call my dad and get some recommendations.

Your dad sounds very important to you...

My dad is my best friend. I talk to him about everything. My family is why I stayed so close to Ft. Worth. So they could attend games. My dad's always been a great factor, a great role model.

If you could invent a catchphrase after taking the ball from someone, what would it be?

Heh. I don't know. "Got it"... something like that. Depends on who it is, or if I just smashed him. If I smashed him, I might say something more vulgar.

What if you took it from Beckham?

If it was Beckham? It depends. It would be kind of funny to look back and say I talked trash to David Beckham

Anything else?

I look forward to getting to DC and working hard there.

Who's your favorite DC United blog?

The DCenters, obviously. [Laughs] [Now that's learning how to talk in this town!]

[Quick note on my impressions: Jay is tremendously easy to talk to over a phone across from coast-to-coast. He made me want to root for him to do well. Our thanks to him for taking some time to talk to us in the middle of his day, and to the DCU Front Office for helping set this up. And we need a catchphrase better than "Got It!" for him. Plus I think I need to mock up an image of him in a Liverpool kit. Just to see if it fits.]

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At 18 January, 2007 08:37, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dcenters-- congratualtions on your appearance in the Express blog line this morning.

At 18 January, 2007 08:42, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great stuff, D. And welcome, Jay! I don't know if we need another free trader in DC but he's not coming as an economist, so I suppose that's alright.

At 18 January, 2007 11:41, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well if Beck's doesn't get the World Bank crowd out maybe a fellow economist will!

Great job with the interview.

At 18 January, 2007 12:34, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent interview. Setting standards for soccer bloggers!

At 20 January, 2007 23:18, Blogger D.C. kitten said...

GOOD LUCK JAY! Tear it up this year!


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