Damion Lowe - Big dreams forever
I am here to tell you about my life growing up in the city of Kingston and also my journey of becoming a professional footballer.
Let's start by introducing myself.
My name Is Damion Onandi Lowe. Yes. 'Onandi Lowe' - that's right. I am the son of the former football superstar.
I guess that's what most people see me as. For me, I am Damion Lowe. I was born and raised in Jamaica in a small community called Rockfort. I am 24 years of age and the eldest of 10 siblings.
In my community, you had one football field that we all had to share, one spring, which had fresh water for us to shower when there was water shortage. We had hills and valleys that I always visited whenever I wanted to see the beauty of the sunset and the ships going off in the horizon.
I remember the sound of my grandmother's music every Sunday morning at 6 o'clock, which I used as my alarm to wake up for church. Not to mention my mother's delicious cornmeal porridge every Saturday before my Prep League game.
In terms of schools, I started out at Galilee Basic School on Dunoon Road in Kingston. Then I left from there to Vaz Preparatory and then Camperdown High.
I went to some of the best schools in Jamaica, all less than five minutes from each other.
I grew up playing football, running track, and playing cricket, but football chose me. I was good at all three sports, and one might say, it's because of my father why I chose football, but that's not the case. I never had a choice. I never really made a choice. It just happened!
When I started to play at Vaz, I was around nine years old - pretty late for a regular footballer - but I had a really good coach - coach Trevor 'Jumpy' Harris - who motivated me and who worked on my fitness, discipline, and technical ability. What a legend!
I can still hear the jump rope swinging through the air. I can still picture that steep hill and feel that cool breeze at 6 a.m. coming down from Coopers Hill. Those were the days.
Camperdown was a different story. We had a coach, but he was more of a guardian. It's crazy how I never knew coach Mario's full name, but I know we went unbeaten in Under-14, played in both competitions, and that's all that matters. I can still hear him calling my teammates' names like Roberto Carlos, Shevchenko, and Deco, with Mr Livy and Mr Poole keeping us in line.
Everyone was so intimidated by the Rasta 'Mr Poole' - nuff respect. I also can remember Mario saying, "Nandi Lowe bwoy! Yuh nuh good." and everyone would laugh. Good times.
Now the journey begins ...
My grandfather was willing to sacrifice everything for me. Other than Mom and Dad, Keith Lowe, my grandfather, had my back. He bought me a first-class ticket to college and gave me US$60, and the last thing I told him before I left was that I would make him proud. He passed away two months later. If you want to visualise him, well, he was something else. He always had on a pair of sunglasses that was really made for welding. 'LOL'. No matter the occasion, he had on a pair of steel-toe shoes, or as Jamaicans would say, 'wukka man' boots.
I still hear him shouting for 90 minutes at my high school and club games and 'cussing' out the coaches, saying that they couldn't do their jobs. I remember one Easter, he would say, "Rasta nuh nyam bun, suh try eat piece a bread wid cheese". Rest in peace.
My father hardly ever saw me play because he was still playing professionally while I was in school. He was the total opposite of my grandfather. He always tells me I'm no good even when I play well and do everything he says. "Him know mi better dan him," but he's the boss.
Life In America
After attending the University of Hartford for three years, in 2013, everything was up in the air. I had a strong season in the PDL (Premier Development League) in the summer, and I was looking to enter the MLS Super Draft. No one wanted to take a chance with me. I had continued training, hoping for the best. The New Year came around; I was in Jamaica losing hope. I decided to stop training.
At 8 a.m. one morning, I heard my phone ring, and it was my mentor-agent-big brother-friend, Damani Ralph. He asked me if I had stopped training, and I said yes, I had given up. As usual, he told me to keep going, something might be in the pipeline, but to me, I had been hearing that for over four or five months.
The next morning, my third day in Jamaica, I got a call saying that I had been offered a Generation adidas Contract, which was for three years guaranteed and two option years.
Arrival in Seattle
My three years in Seattle were full of joy, disappointments, and life lessons. In my rookie year, I was full of confidence, coming in as the eighth overall pick in the Super Draft out of thousands of Division One athletes. This was more than a dream come true. I couldn't believe I was sitting and talking and was able to build good friendships with players I grew up watching - the likes of Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey, Victor Valdez, and the infamous Djimi Traore. If you remember that AC Milan-Liverpool Champions League final, you will know who I am talking about. What a legend he is!
In Seattle, I was able to grow as a player. Going in to the biggest club in the USA with big expectations and with big players, everything was set up for me to grow as a player. Unfortunately, my first professional season was cut short two months in due to a hip injury I suffered in training.
During this time, it was very hard for me. I started to gain confidence, I was young and learning quickly, and all of a sudden, I was out for the year.
After I returned from injury, it was an uphill battle from 2015 to the present. It was very hard for me because my rivals got ahead of me. They were faster, stronger, and better than me. I was determined to get back to my best, and I worked before, during, and after training. Thanks to my good coach and friend Ezra Hendrickson, who believed in me and guided me through those hard times.
Out of contract ...
From December 15, 2015, to January 15, 2016, I was without a team. Seattle did not see me in their plans anymore, and I didn't see myself having a future in the organisation. So we decided to go our separate ways. We ended on good terms, and they will forever be a part of me.
I had a great season on loan with Minnesota United in 2016. I got multiple team-of-the-week selections, played and started every minute of every game, and also got nominated for the young player of the year award. I received an offer from one team, Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Time in Tampa
Tampa welcomed me into their club with open arms. I was glad to be a part of an organisation with a rich history and high goals of becoming one of the best. They made sure I was settled and focused on playing. I believe this enabled me to hit the form of my life, and I am very grateful.
Gold Cup ...
I was selected to represent my beloved country, Jamaica, at the Gold Cup because of my consistent and good showing at the club level. This was a dream come true. I've dreamt and wished to play in these tournaments all my life, to help get my country to the elite status in CONCACA,F and so I did.
I was able to help my team to achieve greatness. This I know opened many doors for many players, which enabled me to land a dream deal in Europe.
In the end, I am glad my journey to greatness went the way it did. It shaped me into the man I am today - happy, God-fearing, and self motivated. I was able to meet people that I only saw on TV and also meet people who now play big roles in my life.
Big dreams forever.
IK Start FC