Exclusive Interview with Jimmy Nealis from Massapequa on being drafted by the Houston Dynamo

by David Harris

Photo provided by Houston Dynamo

Jimmy Nealis from Massapequa is on his way to a career as a professional soccer player having been drafted by the Houston Dynamo in the MLS Super Draft on Thursday. I was able to talk with him and get his thoughts on the whole draft process going back to the MLS Combine, his feelings about going to Houston, and what the next steps are for him as he begins his pro career.

SLI: What’s your reaction to everything since yesterday?

JN: I’m still taking it in, but I’m really excited to get going. I just got my plane tickets and I’m leaving tomorrow. They want to get me down there early because they’re starting the physicals on Sunday and then Monday we start.

Yesterday when I got picked I couldn’t even touch my phone. It just kept buzzing so I didn’t answer everyone till later that night. I heard from pretty much everyone down at Georgetown that I knew. All my friends back home. The local community. Family, friends, family in the area. It was a little overwhelming, but I’m just excited to start.

SLI: What was your reaction to the draft as it unfolded?

JN: It was a long wait. It had me on the edge of the seat the whole time. I think it was well worth it though. Houston is the right place. The organization is great, the fans are great, and it’s going to do well for my career.

SLI: Have you had a chance to talk to Dominic Kinnear or anyone else from the organization?

JN: Coach Kinnear called briefly just to welcome me to the organization.

SLI: Chris Canetti (President of the Houston Dynamo) tweeted that you and J.J. Johnson would be in training camp on Monday. Were you expecting that you’d be going to a training camp so quickly after the draft and are you prepared for that?

JN: Yeah because I was asking around at the Combine. Before the Combine started, I thought we’d have a week off, but it’s probably the best thing to just get right into it.

SLI: Are you looking forward to starting camp on Monday?

JN: I had that long break in between the College Cup and the Combine and now. I’d prefer not to have another long break. I think going straight into the Combine where you’re playing soccer again and then just going right into camp would be the best thing to do.

SLI: What are your thoughts on the Combine?

JN: I thought it was a very cool experience. It reminded me of old days at ODP Camp when you just throw players on a team and you’d have to just play in front of all the coaches. The location was awesome. I have to say thanks to everyone at MLS that organized that because it was a great experience.

I didn’t think I necessarily performed that bad. Maybe the fitness testing got me or something. I didn’t really look into it. It was a little bit of a tough environment to really stand out in. I think it all worked out for a reason and I’m in Houston for a reason and I’m really excited to start there.

SLI: What are your thoughts about being evaluated at a combine affecting everything else that you’ve accomplished and possibly having that affect how teams might have evaluated you?

JN: It’s definitely tough. There’s a lot of pressure on it because you’re playing and then you look to the left of you and there’s all the MLS coaches sitting there on the sideline. It’s definitely always in your mind that you gotta perform. Once you get playing you lose train of thought about that and you just play your game. I think I did that, but I guess some people didn’t see that. I think I couldn’t have ended up in a better place than Houston.

SLI: What are your thoughts going into Houston with such a solid team coming off back to back appearances in MLS Cup?

JN: I think it’s a great opportunity. I’ve never been to Houston so I’m excited for that. It’s a great sports town. I’ve heard that BBVA Compass Stadium is a great venue. I can’t wait to see it myself.

SLI: Have you had much of a chance to follow the Houston Dynamo team in recent years?

JN: I know some of the names on the team, but I don’t know them personally. The past couple of seasons I’ve been trying to follow the MLS. I do know that the Dynamo have been one of the more successful teams in recent years.

SLI: What are your thoughts about being able to get an opportunity to play on a team that has so many talented players?

JN: I think that is what preseason is for. That will be the biggest experiment of preseason is seeing where I fit in. If I can contribute right away or if I’m strictly learning how to play the position. Just getting the opportunity to do this is what I’m looking towards. It’s a great place to learn and anything can happen. It’s going to be up to how I perform and what the coaching staff decides is best. If I get that opportunity, I’m definitely going to try and make the most of it. And hopefully that will help me for the future.

SLI: How does it feel to be at the point where you’re embarking on a pro career?

JN: It’s unreal. I thought of this day for a couple of years now sitting at Georgetown as a freshman and thinking that I can’t wait to go pro. It’s finally here. I definitely don’t want to let it pass by me. I want to take the opportunity and take advantage of it.

SLI: Do you have anything you want to say to the fans in Houston?

JN: Thanks for all of the support. I hope they can show me around Houston and show me a good time. I’ve just heard great things about the city.

Follow Jimmy Nealis on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jneal016