LOS ANGELES, Calif. – With the fourth overall pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, the Portland Timbers selected highly coveted Duke University forward Jeremy Ebobisse.
Ebobisse had been projected to go as high as number one, so to snag the 19 year-old attacker with the fourth pick came as a bit of a coup for the Timbers.
But the former Duke University standout's path to today's SuperDraft was far from conventional.
After finishing his sophomore season with the Blue Devils in 2015, Ebobisse committed himself to going pro. This past August, he signed with Major League Soccer and quickly went on loan to the USL's Charleston Battery for the tail end of that team's 2016 campaign, registering a goal and an assist in five appearances. With the U.S. U-20s in 2016, Ebobisse also scored five goals and had three assists in eight games.
Yet despite having spent most of the past six months preparing for his big moment onstage, the Bethesda, Md. native says that nothing could have prepared him for the complex array of emotions that beset him on the morning of the draft.
“I know I've had six months to let this feeling of anxiety sit but no, it kept growing and growing and growing and I think this morning was when I kind of realized it was all kind of coming to an end,” he said. “So yeah, I was nervous, but I was also excited and I couldn't be more pleased with how it's all turned out.”
Many of those emotions all spilled over into Ebobisse's heartfelt draft speech.
“It was just something incredible and now to get to this point where I'm the one who's going to be ushered onto the field with the next generation, it's really incredible and I think it's a testament to the fact that dreams can come true.”
That dream of going pro has been in the back of Ebobisse's mind since he was at least a teenager. A trial with English club Fulham FC when he was still just 15 solidified his desire to play professionally. And while visa issues made that dream an impossibility then, Ebobisse pursued it all throughout his time at Duke.
“I came in [to Duke] a 17 year-old, inexperienced kid who thought he was ready to conquer the world but now I feel as if I've left a young adult who's mature and ready to go on in the league,” he said in his draft address.
The time Ebobisse spent at Duke not only helped him grow as a player on the pitch, but it also opened up his eyes to a world outside of soccer and made the young student athlete aware of lives and experiences far removed from his experiences at Duke's Durham, N.C. campus.
“I think the way I handle myself now is a testament to how far I’ve come since being kind of a young freshman at Duke,” he told MLSsoccer.com's Arielle Castillo on Thursday, “to being confident in what I think of and trying to articulate in as appropriate of a way as possible.”
And while Ebobisse says that he is familiar with the Timbers and coach Caleb Porter's playing style, he acknowledged that he is not as familiar with the city itself.
“I've been there once [to the area] but I've never been to the city and I'm really excited to get to know it,” he said.
“I've heard a lot about the Timbers Army,” he added. “They're one of the biggest fan groups in the country – if not the biggest – and to be able to play behind that kind of support is going to be something that drives me moving forward, that's going to keep me motivated and it's also going to keep me in check making sure that I'm performing well and doing my job for the team.”
Whatever the young draft pick discovers in his new home, he says that he's ready for all of the opportunities and challenges that will come right along with the move.
“I'm all about exploring different cultures. I'm from African descent. I was born in France. I've lived in D.C. my whole life besides my time at Duke, so I'm all about getting the different experiences in and I'm really excited about it.”