I had the good fortune to interview Jack Jewsbury earlier this week. For those who may be unfamiliar with the name, Jack is Springfield’s favorite MLS player, having joined the KC Wiz in 2003 when he was drafted in the MLS Superdraft following his senior year at St. Louis University. Jack just headed back to KC to begin training with his Wiz teammates for the upcoming season but was kind enought to sit down with me to talk about his soccer experiences. It’s part of my continuing effort to document the history of Springfield Soccer.
Like every player I’ve talked to in the ten months since I began this effort, Jack got his start in the YMCA youth program about the same time he began school. Soon afterwards, he joined the Titans, a group of boys that were his teammates from the age of 8 through high school. The team was one of two competitive youth teams in the area and was originally coached by some of the fathers until a fellow by the name of Gavin Spooner took over coaching responsibilities. As Jack describes it, Gavin had become a part of the Springfield soccer community through his Brittania Soccer Camps and when approached to take over the squad, they soon had a smooth talking Brit leading the way.
Jack made the Missouri Olympic Development Program (ODP) during this period and soon after they reached high school age, he was approached by Busch Soccer Club (now St. Louis SC) about joining their program. Jack and his parents made the decision to join the program his sophomore year and this was the club he represented for the next five years. The club competed regularly in the State Cup and made it to Regionals several times. The U19 squad lost to Vardar, out of Michigan, in the Regional finals but came back the following year and won the National championship as U20’s. This squad included current MLS, and Men’s National team training squad member, Pat Noonan. The U20 trophy is also called the McGuire Cup and is one of the oldest competitive programs that US Soccer has offered.
When I asked Jack how he had come to the attention of SLU, he mentioned that while they were aware of him because of the Busch SC connection, they didn’t approach him until the year he was invited to the Adidas ESP Camp, a program that brought the Top 200 players in the country together for a series of games. When Jack made the All Star team, SLU recognized his ability to compete against the top talent in the country and the courtship was concluded pretty quickly afterwards.
A fellow by the name of Bob Warming was the head coach of SLU at the time, a name familiar to MSU fans as the head coach at Creighton. Warming came to SLU from Creighton and ended up going back after a short period of time where he has built a regional power, the only representative from the MVC in the NCAA tournament for the past several years and a nationally recognized coach. Jack’s first game for SLU came in the Fall of 1999 and was the first game played at the newly renovated Hermann Stadium on the SLU campus. It was a preseason match against the defending national champion Indiana Hoosiers. Jack scored the first goal in the history of the program at this wonderful new facility, in front of record crowds, a flicked header that gave the Billikens an initial lead. The Hoosiers came back to score two goals but Jack wasn’t done, getting the game winning goal as well in a 3-2 win that set the tone for a team that made the 2nd round of the NCAA tourney that year. It ranks up there as his most memorable college experience and quite a story.
Jack went onto win Conferenec USA player of the year honors as a sophomore and ended up tenth on the Billiken’s all-time scoring list, playing for current Head Coach Dan Donigan who was promoted from assistant during his junior year. He was selected in the fifth round of the MLS Superdraft, number 43 overall. He made the squad and played in his first game August 16th against Dallas and earned his first start August 22nd against Colorado.
His most memorable experience in the MLS (so far!) came in the 2004 playoffs. Jack started all four playoff games for the Wizards, including the MLS Cup Final against DC United. To get to the Cup Final the Wiz first had to get by the San Jose Earthquake in the first round. Having lost to San Jose 0-2 in the first round of a home and away series, the Wiz needed to win 3-0 to go through. They did just that when Jack came back to a diagonal pass that he one-timed from 25 yards out from a bad angle, going over the keepers head and into the side netting at the far post for the 3rd goal, scored in injury time. He also had the assist on the first goal and the Wiz road that momentum changer to the Final’s in 2004.
I couldn’t let Jack leave before broaching the topic of the local rivalry, meaning Kickapoo vs Glendale. It’s amazing how that game can maintain such a hold on a kid almost eight years later but that’s what high school, and rivalries, are all about. Kickapoo’s best finish during Jack’s high school years was as a sophomore in the Fall of 1996 when the team reached the Final Four with a team that included Kiley Cirillo (currently MSSU head coach), Joey Steele, Dustin Handwenker and Jonathan Ecka. As a senior, the team reached the quarterfinals before being eliminated by the JC Jays. With those types of memories, guess what stands out? Beating Glendale in the District final his senior year (Fall 1998) in a game that was played on the KHS pitch and went to Penalty Kicks. Jack had to make his shot when shooting fifth, which he did, and the game went several more before the Chief’s came out on top. He describes the field with the same glowing terms I’ve heard from a number of folks, with the crowd several deep on three sides of the field and roaring. Apparently for PK’s the crowd was allowed to come to midfield as well which created a fantastic environment, something that is only matched by the games at Cooper these days.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this report as much as I did in the hearing and sharing of it. “My number” has always been 14 and you may know that is Jack’s number now with the Wiz so I always get a kick when I see a talented player with that on their jersey. The final question I had for Jack before he left was about his game, and his particular talents, and it left no doubt in my mind that this fellow is a forward. His response was “finishing”. An appropriate attitude and one that I hope we get to see him applying to an even greater degree this year as he begins his fourth professional season. Thanks, and good luck Jack!
PS – I forgot to mention, Jack proposed during Christmas to the young lady he’s been seeing since his senior year at Kickapoo. They plan on marrying later this year so it’s going to be a big one for our local hero in many ways. Congratulations Jack!