Marywood University in Scranton, PA honored professional soccer player Ryan Jones (class of 2013) at a ceremony held prior to the start of the men’s soccer game on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Jones played professionally for PS Kemi Kings in Finland and is the first pro soccer player out of Marywood. Dr. Mary Jo Gunning, Director of Athletics and Recreation contacted Jones earlier in the year explaining that they wanted to frame his professional jersey and display in Marywood's Athletic Center.
After graduating from Marywood University in the Spring of 2013, Jones was selected to play soccer for USA in the 19th Maccabiah Games in Israel - where he helped his team earn the first ever Gold Medal of any USA age group for soccer in the games. These games are a quadrennial event that are better known as the Jewish Olympics. The Maccabiah Games take place in Israel and host 8,000+ Jewish athletes from all over the World to compete in more than 40 sports. After this life changing experience Jones was contacted by the International Academic Soccer Academy program in Leeds, England where he earned his Masters Degree in PR & Strategic Communications while continuing to pursue his childhood dream of playing professional soccer overseas!
Ryan played for non-league side Eccleshill United, where they won the West Yorkshire Riding Cup in 2014, lost in penalties in the League Cup, and finished 4th overall in the League. While there Jones was chosen to play in select showcase games which saw him go up against teams like Notts County U23s, Milwall U23s at St. Georges Park (Home of the England National Team), Huddersfield Reserves while playing for Bury FC, and Hull City reserves. "It was an amazing experience to play all over England and to eat, live and breathe the game as the locals do!", stated Jones. Before his stint in England came to a close Jones was selected to attend training sessions with League 1 side Bradford City; allowing him to elevate his skill level. After finishing his coursework at Leeds Metropolitan University (now Leeds Beckett University) he was offered a contract with PS Kemi Kings located in Kemi, Finland!
Penning a contract with the Kemi Kings was a culmination of the previous 18 years of hard work and determination. "Stepping off the plane in Finland was a surreal experience all around and one I could only dream of happening. It was a difficult adjustment to life in the port city of Kemi, in the Lapland region of Finland - not only with the language but also with the food, way of living and the normal adjustments to a new team." During the Summers there is a 3 month period where the Sun does not set but only dips below the horizon and comes back up. This made it especially difficult while watching the USA play in the World Cup with a game at 2am while it looked like 2pm outside! Nonetheless, Ryan was able to adapt and adjust to his new life and new team. After playing overseas for more than a year and a half continuously, Jones returned to the USA in the Fall of 2014 to rehabilitate his body. Jones stated, "Looking back on my experiences overseas was challenging and fulfilling.
“I was able to travel the world, meet players and coaches from all over the world, and learn more of the ins and outs of the business aspect of the game while continuing my education and furthering my playing career. I had a dream when I started playing soccer at 5 years old – to play professional soccer overseas - and at the age of 21, I was able to accomplish what many soccer players can only dream about ."
Ryan's PS Kemi Kings jersey (#11) will hang in the Athletics Building on Maywood's Campus and serve as an inspiration to future soccer players showing them that hard work on the field can make dreams happen.