With their son on the verge of making a lifelong dream a reality, Kevin and Judy Nerwinski sat down with their son to have an important conversation.
Jake Nerwinski, then 22 and fresh out of college at UConn, was about to put pen to paper on his first professional contract, and his parents had one message.
“You're not just a professional soccer player, you need to use your platform to do good for the community,” his parents told him.
Since then, Nerwinski has lived by that ethos, and it’s what he cherishes most as he approaches a career milestone with 100 professional appearances with Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Over the years, he has been a leader in the community by helping out with the youth at both the BC Children’s Hospital, and Hope and Health, which aims to empower Indigenous children.
He’s even formed a lasting relationship with a resilient teen he befriended on a team hospital visit as a rookie.
“That's the most important part of my job,” explains Nerwinski. “To stay connected with the community, to give back as much as possible, and to use my platform. I've been grateful to be with the Whitecaps that are so good at helping us reach out to the community. I think that's more special than 100 appearances, personally.”
That says something, when you consider what the fourth-year pro has accomplished so far.
Since the beginning of 2017 when Nerwinski joined Whitecaps FC as an MLS SuperDraft selection, Nerwinski has led the club in several statistical categories, including touches, passes, duels won, interceptions, and tackles won.
His resume includes eight assists and three goals, including two in 2020, across all competitions.
“The years have flown by. It's a great individual accolade, not many players get 100 appearances, let alone with the same club, so it's something very special to me,” says Nerwinski. “When I first came in, not many people expected me to make an impact right away. I wanted to prove people wrong, I wanted to prove to myself that I did belong here. And I think I did just that.”
The Jersey boy, born-and-raised, has collected many memories over the years with the ‘Caps, dating back to this debut, and to scoring a couple of goals this year.
“Making my debut in New Jersey in front of 100 of my friends and family was something really surreal and something special that I got to do that in my home state,” reminisces Nerwinski. “This season, scoring the winning goal against Toronto who's probably the best team in the MLS right now, that was something very special. Winning the playoff game against San Jose in 2017, that was special as well.”
Suddenly, he is now second-longest tenured player on the 'Caps first-team roster, next only to Russell Teibert.
“I know that I'm one of the older guys on the team. I'm trying to be a leader now to the younger guys and hopefully I can carry this forward,” says Nerwinski.
The right back, who turns 26 next Saturday, willingly takes on these responsibilities as he’s grown into a leader on the pitch, in the locker room, and in the community.
“Vancouver has become my home. I love the city. I love the fans, so it's been a very special four years for me,” says Nerwinski.
“I'm very grateful that I've been able to play for this club for four seasons now, and to help make an impact.”
As he nears the century-mark milestone of his career, Nerwinski can say he has done just that – delivering on a promise he made to his parents as a rookie on that day in 2017.
Watch Nerwinski and the 'Caps take on Real Salt Lake on Saturday. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. PT, live on TSN1/4 and TSN Radio 1040.