VANCOUVER, BC – Jovan Blagojevic feels like he’s living a fairytale.
Not long ago, the 23-year-old Coquitlam resident thought playing professional soccer was nothing more than a pipedream. He came into the 2014 season looking to end his collegiate career on a high at Simon Fraser University before going off to med school.
Highlights: Jovan Blagojevic (M/F - SFU)
Then, he scored 18 goals in 18 matches and started turning some heads. Then, his name appeared on the list players available in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft – he’s still not sure how that happened.
And today, he was selected by Vancouver Whitecaps FC – his hometown team.
Forgive Blagojevic if he’s still trying to catch his breath.
“It’s definitely been something that I never could have dreamed of experiencing,” Blagojevic told whitecapsfc.com. “One minute I’m screaming and running around in joy and one minute I’m just getting so emotional and crying from happiness.”
“Getting drafted by Vancouver made it even more special,” he added. “That blew me away. I could not believe it. Seriously, you couldn’t have written it any better.”
Whitecaps FC used their first pick of the third-round (54th overall) to select Blagojevic, who becomes the first player drafted into MLS from a Canadian school. SFU is the only Canadian team competing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Blagojevic said he didn’t have any expectations going into the draft. He didn’t know of any interest from Vancouver, or any other team for that matter. But he still followed along online with his girlfriend, knowing there was a possibility he’d get selected.
“For some reason my computer wasn’t updating fast enough,” Blagojevic said. “So I was watching and then all of a sudden I get a whole bunch of text messages saying, ‘Congrats, congrats.’ I was like, ‘What are you people talking about? I don’t even know what’s going on.’ Finally, it updated and I saw it, and I was like, ‘Oh wow.’ It’s crazy, it’s crazy. We’re just so happy.”
Born in Belgrade, Serbia, Blagojevic moved to British Columbia with his family when he was two years old. Worried that his two older brothers and father would be forced to go to war, the family escaped the country and moved to Canada, hoping to give Blagojevic a better life.
According to Blagojevic, soccer “doesn’t run anywhere near [his] family.” A self-described mischievous kid growing up, his mother put him in a few different sports growing up to help calm him down. They tried skating and gymnastics, but it was “soccer that clicked.”
He played in Burnaby growing up and then in Coquitlam during his senior year of high school, before enrolling at SFU. Blagojevic didn’t play soccer during his first two years at SFU because he wanted to focus on his education (he was a molecular biology student) and because the coaching staff didn’t think he was quite ready. But he joined the team in time for the 2011 season and said “it was one of the best decisions he’s ever made.”
The 5-foot-11 midfielder/striker went on to spend four seasons with the SFU Clan, a Division II side that compete in the NCAA’s Great Northwest Atlantic Conference (GNAC), totaling 38 goals in 71 appearances.
This past season, he scored a conference-high 18 goals in 18 matches and led SFU to their third straight national tournament appearance. For his efforts, Blagojevic was named the 2014 West Region Player of the Year and GNAC Player of the Year in addition to earning second team All-American honours.
“He definitely had one of the best individual seasons that I’ve ever season,” said SFU head coach Alan Koch, who sees Blagojevic as more of a winger. “He literally put the team on his back at times and took the team to the NCAA National Tournament almost by himself.”
“It’s great that he scores all the goals, but to be honest I don’t think he really cares who scores the goals as long as the team goes out and gets the result,” Koch added. “He’s got the right mentality. It’s not about him. It’s about the team.”
Koch added that Blagojevic excelled in the classroom as much as he did the soccer pitch, which isn’t a surprise considering he was planning to attend med school.
But med school is on hold for now while he chases his childhood dream.
“I can always do medical school,” Blagojevic said. “I got this opportunity and I want to make the most of it. I’m going to do everything I can to show the Whitecaps that I am everything they hope I can be.”
And if that means trying to prove himself with Whitecaps FC 2 in USL PRO, then Blagojevic said he’s up for the challenge.
“Obviously, I’d love to get some minutes with the first team, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. I’m new, I have a lot to prove.”
Blagojevic is living a fairytale, and he just doesn’t want it to end.
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