Jordan Graye, Andrew Quinn go from DeMatha to D.C. United
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Then a set of standout high school soccer stars at DeMatha, Graye and Quinn had forged a friendship largely through the game they loved, and both spoke of their dreams of one day playing professionally -- maybe even in the uniform of the team they rooted for those nights in the city.
Now, improbably, the two friends who met as freshmen in high school have landed back in their home town, playing for the team they used to watch as kids.
Graye is a starting outside defender for United, a fourth-round draft pick who beat the odds to crack the starting lineup. Quinn, a goalkeeper, worked his way onto the roster in the preseason before a devastating knee injury ended his rookie season before it had a chance to start.
The pair are two of three former DeMatha soccer stars, along with goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who have ended up on D.C. United's roster this season -- a rarity that is a sign both of United's recent commitment to finding homegrown talent and a nod to a dominant DeMatha program that this decade went four seasons without a loss.
"Through all the success we had at DeMatha, they would always talk about further success and playing together after DeMatha," Stags Coach Dafydd Evans said. "One went to North Carolina and one to Notre Dame [for college], but they both had hopes of being pro. It's almost outside the realm of possibility that both could be pro to start with, let alone at D.C. United together. It's still quite incredible to me."
Graye and Quinn took vastly different paths to the professional ranks, but both converged along the way at DeMatha in Hyattsville, where the two bonded after each missed tryouts for the soccer team -- Graye for a camp and Quinn because of an injured ankle.
When the two showed up for practice, "Everyone was like, 'Who are these guys?' " Quinn recalled.
Neither made the varsity team as freshmen, but they ended up in several of the same classes and also lived near each other. Soon, Graye and Quinn were pushing each other to work out more in hopes of extending their soccer careers.
Graye was identified early as one of the country's brightest stars, playing with the U.S. youth national team and living for one year in Bradenton, Fla., at a residency camp. Things didn't come as easily for Quinn, who had the soccer intelligence that came from being raised near the game -- his father, Tony, is a longtime D.C.-based soccer photographer -- but lacked Graye's natural athletic ability and had to work harder to play at the elite levels.
Those differences, however, provided a balance in the friendship.
"We fed off each other," Quinn said. "Jordan . . . didn't need to work as hard, and I needed to work really hard and I was like, 'C'mon Jordan, let's go work out or go run or do something.' It was good I would always want someone to work out with or run with or play with. He needed me to do that."
Graye agreed, saying that as college soccer beckoned, Quinn's influence was especially important.
Quinn was "a little goofy in the beginning but he got a lot more serious as his career went on as he went in to go play Division I soccer," Graye said. "And in turn he got me a lot more serious with mine, too, because we pretty much did a lot of training together."
After finishing as All-Met honorees in 2004, both headed to college. Over his final two seasons at North Carolina, Graye started 55 of 56 games and helped lead one of the country's top defenses. Quinn, meanwhile, started 16 games as a Notre Dame senior before missing his final four games with a shoulder injury.
The two nearly met twice in the NCAA tournament, Quinn said, but did not because the Irish did not advance.
Throughout their four years, however, they stayed in touch and continued to train together during the offseasons, with Graye visiting Quinn in South Bend to work at soccer camps one summer. Both also played together for D.C. United's under-20 development team.
In January, United selected Graye in the fourth round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft with the 55th overall pick. Quinn, meanwhile, headed to Scotland for a tryout with Rangers, a team in that country's Premier League.
As his tryout neared an end, Quinn felt he would not receive an offer to stay with the club. But he got an e-mail from D.C. United goalkeeping coach Mark Simpson saying the team had a spot for a goalkeeper to train in Bradenton. Quinn accepted and immediately reached out to Graye to let him know they would be reunited.
"He called me up, I think he was in Scotland and he was like, 'Yo, I'm coming to camp,' " Graye recalled. "And I was just like, 'Oh [wow], that's pretty cool.' "
The two roomed together during early trips, but Quinn's injury has left him spending most of his time rehabilitating while Graye has won a starting job. That, too, he credits partly to encouragement from his former high school and club teammate.
That they have been able to share the experience has been important, both said, but neither believed it was overly significant that they had both reached the pros together.
"Our families are pretty close, we live about 15 minutes apart from each other, so he's always at my house and I'm always at his house so it's probably really cool for them," Quinn said. "Probably more special for them than to us. We don't really realize how unique the situation is. It's always just been that way."