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What Made Clint Dempsey Different?

By Justin Moose, 04/03/20, 9:30AM EDT


This 'break' in our daily lives and routines has given all of us a chance to catch up with old friends, reflect on our work, families, and personal history.  Justin Moose recently caught up with former teammate and friend, U.S. Men's National Team great, Clint Dempsey.  Below are some of his observations about the 'tall, skinny kid who was silky smooth on the ball'.

Every summer as a teenager, I traveled to Alabama with the North Carolina ODP team in hopes of being selected the Regional team.  The Regional team players were chosen from 13 southeastern states that played friendlies all around the world and making this regional team also led to an opportunity to advance to a U.S. Youth National Team.  I worked really hard and was chosen every year. 

After a game in the hot Alabama sun, I stuck around to watch  North Texas play.  I noticed a tall, skinny kid who was silky smooth with the ball and eventually took over the game.  To my surprise, the coaches didn't choose him for the Regional Team at the end of the week.  The following year, there was a buzz around camp, "have you seen Clint Dempsey play?"  He made the team and would never again be denied a spot.  His work ethic, flair and dominance became a reputation that preceded him.  

Both of us would get that call up to the U-20 National Team and became teammates and fast friends.  He and I were warming up and doing our normal tricks as substitutes before a U-20 game when he stopped and walked over to me and confidently said, "you know we're going to play in Europe one day."  The comment somewhat surprised me and caught me off guard.  I honestly felt like my goal had been met earlier that week listening to the national anthem and wearing the USA badge prior to a friendly game against Mexico, but Clint dreamt huge.  Clint had unbelievable talents and gifts, but looking back, I think its this comment and the ambition and belief that was behind it that was why he did what he did in the sport.  Clint was a star at Furman University when we first became teammates but this ambition would move him quickly from success with in MLS with the New England Revolution to the English Premier League playing for Fulham and Tottenham.  

As Clint was preparing for the 2014 World Cup as our contry's captain, I spoke to him while I was on trial in Finland.  He relayed a simple motivational message that stuck with me.  "No Grind, No shine."  This mindset  he possessed influenced my career during the ups and downs in my playing career that saw me being a leader of teams, winning championships, fighting for playing time, or fighting through/recovering from injuries.  

The bottom line that transcends the sport is if you want something, you have to be willing to work for it.  I often hear the quote "hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."  Clint had both.  The combination of his hard work and his talent is the reason why he can be considered the best American soccer player in history.