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Jay DeMerit

Jay DeMerit heads the ball during the USA v. Slovenia match on June 18.

July 2010

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Former Green Knight soccer players boast a World Cup connection

If it’s true that you need to walk a mile in another man’s shoes to understand him, former Green Knight soccer player Ben Vanden Avond ’09 knows a little bit about U.S. World Cup team defender Jay DeMerit.
“He gave me a pair of cleats,” Vanden Avond says. “He had a whole room full of them. So I suddenly had double-studded Predator soft-grounds.”
Vanden Avond met DeMerit in spring 2008 while studying abroad in England.
“I got in contact with his dad and asked him if I could meet Jay while I was over there,” Vanden Avond says. DeMerit graduated from Bay Port High School in 1998, where his father coached soccer – and coached against Vanden Avond’s De Pere High School team.
The connection garnered Vanden Avond a day in Camden Market, picking the brain of a professional soccer player.
“I was just asking him about what it has been like for him,” Vanden Avond says. After college, DeMerit wasn’t picked up by a Major League Soccer club in the U.S. He moved to England with no guarantees and eventually landed on Watford’s roster.
DeMerit not only shared his story and cleats, he also gave Vanden Avond tickets to games and showed off a game ball he earned for a game-winning goal.
It was that goal that got DeMerit noticed back home by his former Green Bay men’s league teammate, St. Norbert soccer coach Andy Steger.
“I didn’t know Jay well enough that we were in touch all the time,” Steger says. Steger heard about DeMerit’s goal because it put Watford in the UK’s Premier League, playing against the best English teams.
DeMerit went on to meet other St. Norbert soccer players studying abroad, something that Steger thinks is great for his players.
“It’s a chance for them to see in person a guy who has been playing at the elite level,” Steger said.
By the time Kevin Jones ’10 met with DeMerit in spring 2009, the Watford defender knew he might make it to his country’s World Cup squad.
“He wasn’t a lock for the national team yet,” Jones says. “He had an inkling he had a shot at it. He thought he could be where he is right now.”
Steger, Vanden Avond and Jones all praise DeMerit’s performance in this World Cup, especially his work defending England’s dangerous striker Wayne Rooney. 
“It was great to see someone from Green Bay, with heart and determination, get out there and represent our country,” Vanden Avond says.

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