The New York Red Bulls signed midfielder Sean Davis this week as a homegrown player. Davis, born in Long Branch and raised in Holmdel, N.J., joins the team after four years as a standout at Duke University, including two as the captain of the Blue Devils. His off-field resume, and the time and effort he devoted to the Duke University and Durham communities, are just as impressive as his highlight reel.
Davis joined the Red Bulls academy as a 16 year old, after returning from the U.S. Soccer Under-17 residency program in Bradenton, FL. He played with the Red Bulls U-16 and U-18 squads before signing with Duke as the third-ranked recruit in the nation, and top recruit from the state of New Jersey. He was also part of the Red Bulls U-23 team that won the 2014 NPSL championship back in August at Red Bull Arena.
We sat down with the newest Red Bull to let him introduce himself, in his own words…
Q: This is something you’ve been working towards for a long time… how did it feel to actually sign those papers?
A: It’s pretty indescribable, but I was extremely happy and really excited. It’s certainly been a long time coming but looking back I’m really proud of the journey and all of the work that it’s taken to get here, so I’m appreciative of the moment. Like I said, I’m excited and I’m looking forward to the next step.
What does it mean that it’s your hometown team, and an organization that you’ve been a part of?
I can’t say enough good things about the club and how they’ve treated me since I joined. They’re extremely invested in player development at the youth level and they’ve given me every opportunity to succeed here. I’m extremely grateful for all they’ve done and now I’m looking to repay them, and work really hard. That’s the great thing about this opportunity: I think that the club cares about me and in turn I really care about the club, so I’m just trying to contribute in any way possible at this point.
Why was it important to you to finish your education at Duke?
I think my parents really helped me understand how important a college education was for me. And then on the other hand, it was a necessary step for my development as a player. I needed more time and in America, college is the next step if you’re not ready in high school. I think it was a great step for me. It varies for everyone but for me, it was really important to grow as a person and as a player, and I think Duke was the perfect place for that.
What lessons will you take with you from your time at Duke?
If I had to pinpoint any one thing, I would just say the people that I was surrounded with. I think that Duke naturally attracts great people to the school. I had great coaches around me that really cared about me, really wanted to develop me as a player and also wanted what was best for me going forward. They were great people to have around during this process. And also my friends, they’ve been amazing. They’ve been a great support group throughout my four years and they really pushed me to be the best person I can possibly be. I can’t thank them enough for that.
Outside of the people, I’ve had a lot of great platforms to succeed using extracurricular activities and all of that, but I think the biggest honor for me was being a captain for my team, and at a school like Duke. It’s something that I’ll hold onto for the rest of my life.
What do you think the biggest challenge will be transitioning from the college game to MLS?
Fortunately I spent a lot of time with the first team this summer, so I have a good understanding of what it’s like. Now, saying that, I still think that it might take a little time to adjust. It’s obviously a much quicker pace and when it comes down to thinking quickly and speed of play that always takes time to adjust. You can’t really practice that by yourself at this point. I’m really looking forward to it. It may take time but I’m really looking forward to the transition and I’m really excited about the next step.
How did it help to train with the first team? Does it help to have a familiarity with the guys?
Yeah, it definitely helps. I think spending time with the team during the summer was an incredible experience that I’m really thankful for. It was really useful on many different fronts. Not only was it a great experience as a player, it also convinced me that the club is really invested in me and they really care about me. I was really fortunate to experience that, and I’m really looking forward to going full-time.
I still know a lot of guys on the team, I’m good friends with a bunch of them after spending so much time with them this summer, so yeah, I’m really looking forward to it.
You played at Red Bull Arena for the U-23 NPSL Championship game last summer. What do you remember about playing in the arena?
It was incredible. It really convinced me that this is where I wanted to be. I think that’s what is great about Red Bulls, they really provide so many opportunities for the younger players. I have so many great memories of playing as an under-18, under-16 player here, from playing with Messi and the Argentinian national team to playing in the arena late in the summer. I think it was a great group of guys, the team was fantastic and the coach was great, so it’s just an enjoyable experience all around. I remember we went down 1-0 but I was confident we would come back. To play in front of the fans in the first team game, with all of the staff there was really a fantastic experience that I’m really grateful for.
(Note: Davis was part of the Red Bulls U-18 team that trained with Argentina in 2011)
What do you think of the game-day atmosphere at Red Bull Arena?
It was awesome. The fans were amazing. I remember during [the first team] game they were obviously great, but what really struck me was how many stayed and cheered us on. They supported us and stood by our side. That was the most memorable part for me, being in front of those fans and hoping that one day I’d be able to play in the arena. That’s something I really look forward to. Of course it’s going to take time and a lot of hard work, but the fact that that is a possibility really excites me.
Do you see yourself contributing this season?
Yeah, it’s going to take some time for me to start getting minutes, but I think I can contribute more than just on the field. Any way that I can help the team I’m willing to do so. It’s not necessarily just about playing, but being the best teammate I can be, the best representation for the academy I can be. That’s really something that drives me. Again I just want to give back to the club, and be the best player I can be for this club.
What do you want Red Bulls fans to know about Sean Davis?
I want them to know I’m going to work my hardest, that I truly care about the club and its success. It’s a real honor to be a part of the club and I hope that they give me some time, but understand that I’ll be working my hardest to contribute in any way possible.
Looking forward to being back in New Jersey?
Yeah. It’s great to be home. I’ll definitely miss school, but I’m excited for the next step and I love home.
Are you going to live at home?
That’s still up in the air (laughs). I’m certainly not opposed to it after being away for so long, so we’ll have to see how things work out.