When NYRB II signed Devon "Speedy" Williams in July, he had been with the New York Red Bulls for slightly over four months on trial, an experience he said by the end made him "a bit frustrated."
"At first it was okay, because the coach kept telling me he wants you here," Williams said to Once a Metro.
"I liked it here, but then after a while I thought I was getting a bit frustrated and I started to lose motivation - and that’s when you know things started to come through."
Four months is a long trial, but fortunately whatever challenges Williams may have had staying focused as the process dragged on did not get in the way of his signing a contract. He joined NYRB II on July 10.
Williams said that he and his agent were sorting out another potential destination before the Red Bulls worked out the details to bring him to the organization.
"Its been great just to be here in this environment everyday, professionally where the quality of play and the coaches are great," Williams said.
"I’m learning a lot here, and I’m so grateful to be here and have this opportunity."
There was, perhaps, another reason to be grateful that the move to RBNY worked out: Williams has an old friend among the Red Bulls' players. Kemar Lawrence is childhood pal.
"So me and Kemar we actually grew up - and I am not sure a lot of people knew that - but we grew up together," Williams said.
"We’ve been in the same youth teams, we went to the same primary school, so we actually grew up in Kingston, and it's great to be here with him.
"We hangout sometimes, and also we cook our native Jamaican food together - and we chill sometimes."
Unlike Lawrence, who turned pro in Jamaica, Williams put in four years at Robert Morris University in the United States before testing the market for his services as a professional soccer player. Prior to that, he attended St. George's College in Kingston, where he won a national high school championship, the Manning Cup. In 2010, at the age of 18, Williams had the opportunity to play for the Jamaican National team against Trinidad & Tobago.
"That experience was great at that time - being so young...going on trips and playing...phenomenal at that time," he recalled. The national team hasn't come calling since, but Williams is, of course, hopeful he can recapture the attention of the selectors as he develops his career as a professional.
But his school encouraged a focus on academics, and despite the taste of international soccer, Williams followed teh advice of his coaches and teachers:
"The first thing was actually going to college, because at St. George's our first focus was education. We're a good footballing school, but our first thing and priority is education. So everyone, including the coaches said: hey, make sure you get your education first, then you can go get you contract."
He picked the college that seemed most interested in him:
"I didn’t really know the school system over here, but one day I got contacted by the coach, and he said he wanted to give me a scholarship. I had two others contacting me, but he was the one that showed the most interest, and he came to Jamaica to watch me play, so that was a big plus."
The biggest adjustment for Williams, he says, was the physicality of soccer in the United States: "My first year in college, it wasn't that good physically. But over the years I got tougher and I started handling it better."
His high school soccer and playing in the Jamaica youth national system helped prepare him for the move to America.
"Our school: we were really good, and had some really talented players, and when we won the titles, we had some really good players. And we played some against some really good opponents," Williams said.
But he also played for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds U23s in the USL Premier Development League before his senior season in college: "It's a really good development league. And I hadn't played it - the three years prior, I always went back to Jamaica. But that year, I had to tell myself I'm going to stay there. And I actually learned a lot from that one season playing PDL. My game improved a lot playing that one season."
With NYRB II, Williams has generally played in central midfield, often paired with Bolu Akinyode: "We've played well," he says of the partnership they've forged over the latter stages of the USL season. He has also enjoyed playing alongside Tyler Adams, even though they have only appeared in two games together, in midfield. "I think we have a really good connection," he says.
Off the field, Williams says he loves to follow the NBA, and would love to catch a New York Knicks game at Madison Square garden if possible.
A student of the game, when he isn't playing soccer, Williams watches a lot of clips of famous footballers in his position including Xavi, Fernando, and Andrea Pirlo. He has started reading Pirlo's book recently to learn more about the World Cup winner.
When it comes time to train against the first team, Williams says he "always takes it very seriously, because I can learn a lot from them."
"Dax, Felipe and Sacha, those guys I watch a lot when I’m there, I watch their movement how they control the ball and which way they control it," Williams said.
"That’s how you learn. That’s who I want to be, so why not learn from those guys?"
Williams says his goal for next year is to make a leap forward in professional football. He has been working to improve his speed and vision this year, all in the effort to earn that first MLS contract.
"There haven’t been any talks [for next year]," Williams said.
"The goal of mine is to get up to the [Red Bulls'] MLS team, so that’s where my focus is right now."
And how has this first year as a pro affected his game? Perhaps surprisingly for a man who brought the nickname "Speedy" with him to the team, Williams thinks he might be speedier now:
"The speed of play. I think I've improved the most on the speed of play. I've gotten quicker."