Darin Jones chases down the ball (photo by Chris Coulter, SoundersPhotos.com)
Darwin Jones may be the epitome of a happy-go-lucky guy; you would be hard-pressed to find Jones in any other state than his bubbly, care free and smiling way. Jones is as nice and happy of an individual you will ever meet and someone you can't help but be drawn to and instantly like. While he possess all the qualities of a great individual, he is also a terrific soccer player with blazing speed and has chiseled frame of body builder.
Jones began playing soccer at age eleven when a friend's father took notice of his ball striking prowess during a game of kickball. From that day forward, Jones began playing soccer and soon fell in love with the game.
Throughout middle school and into high school, Jones ran track and played basketball. At Mount Rainier High School, Jones played soccer his sophomore, junior and senior years. In addition to high school soccer, Jones played six years of club soccer: three years with Highline Premier FC, two with Washington Premier and one with Sounders FC Academy.
The name, Darwin Jones, is one that many Sounders faithful is familiar with. Jones, a product of the Sounders U18 Academy system, was a standout star in the inaugural season with the Sounders Academy and had many college suitors, including national power houses Wake Forest and UC Santa Barbara. Jones ultimately decided to stay local and showcase his talents among his friends and family. In the fall of 2012, Jones will be attending the University of Washington.
"I just want to go there and make an impact and change the program. It's a new coaching staff and I want to (make an impression)," said Jones.
The University of Washington has revamped their program under the guidance of Jamie Clark and in doing so, accumulated several Sounders Academy players. For players remaining local and staying close to home, it also allows them to be seen on a regular basis by the Sounders FC technical staff.
"We're very excited Darwin is going to be playing this fall at the UW. We think Jamie (Clark) is doing a good job. Everytime he plays at home we're going to be out there watching and we're really happy that he's local and we're looking for him to do some really good things there," said Sounders FC Technical Director, Chris Henderson.
In preparation for attending the University of Washington, Jones attended Highline Community College. "It was definitely an eye opening experience because it was either I get the stuff (academics) done and move forward with my life or I just go through the motions and get stuck (in the same place) for the rest of my life and not moving forward," said Jones of his time with Highline.
While at Highline, Jones played for Sounders U-23 assistant, and Highline soccer's head coach, Jason Prenevost. "He's a nice kid, he's very respectful and he's just always in a good mood," said Prenevost. "When Darwin is on the field he is a threat to score at any moment. He's a competitor, there's no doubt about it."
With the Thunderbirds, Jones was the team MVP, amassing 15 goals and 10 assists, and lead the team into the semi-finals of the NWAACC playoffs.
Jones has been on the radar of the Sounders FC first team and has trained with the first team on numerous occasions, including the first few weeks of the 2012 training camp. "Darwin is a great young man. He is always professional when he's been around our academy and whenever he is brought up to train with our first team or reserves. He has a great attitude and he's willing to learn, has an open mind, works hard and has a great character; we really like him," said Chris Henderson.
While with Sounders first team, Jones was able to demonstrate one of his biggest assets, his speed. Jones was the fastest player to run in the team's annual fitness competition. While this is an impressive feat, what many may not have realized is that Jones was suffering from a quad injury at the time and only at 85% by his own estimations.
"I think it has been a good experience, it gave me the exposure to be out with the first team and see different styles of soccer and a different level to see how my game play changed and how I fit in," said Jones of his experience with the Sounders training.
Jones has suffered a bit from that same quad injury during his time with the Sounders U-23 team. Having never fully recovered from the damage, and his proclivity to play injured, Sounders U-23 manager, Darren Sawatzky effectively shut Jones down and forced him to properly recover and rehabilitate the injury. Jones has since made a recovery and has eased his way back into the lineup for the Sounders U-23 playoff run.
"Getting Darwin ready for the fall at the UW is very important to us. He needs to be healthy and we want to foster great relationships with the college soccer programs. The players should come out of the PDL season fit and ready for their fall schedules," said Darren Sawatzky, Sounders U-23 head coach.
A bright future lies ahead for the speedy goal scorer and he aims to make a huge impact with the the University of Washington in the fall, in hopes of becoming Seattle Sounders FC's first homegrown signing to a professional contract.