Kenwood soccer standout Quantrell Jones dreams of becoming a professional goalkeeper one day.
He has taken a big step toward that goal by accepting a coveted invitation to the upcoming spring semester of the U.S. Under-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla.
Set to turn 16 on Jan. 16, the 6-foot-2 sophomore will leave for Florida on Jan. 6 for the six-month semester. One of as many as 40 selected players, he'll live on the IMG Academy campus and train in the morning under U-17 men's national team coach Richie Williams and his staff. In the afternoon, Jones will attend classes at St. Stephen's Episcopal School.
"I'm really excited about it because I've worked very hard to get to where I am. This opportunity can open a lot of doors for me and my family because I want to turn pro, but I know I have to work even harder than I am right now to achieve that goal," he said.
It's been a remarkable year for Jones, who started playing soccer when he was 4 and first took to goalkeeping when he was 8. This summer, he moved up an age group to help the under-16 Baltimore Celtic Soccer Club claim a youth national championship, going 4-1 with three shutouts to earn the age group's Golden Glove Award as top goalkeeper. A big presence in the goal, Jones has shown the agility and smarts to take command of the penalty area with a willingness to always want to improve his game.
"He's as good as I've ever seen and as talented as they come. He's huge and has all the tools to be very good," said Celtic coach Steve Nichols, who also is the men's coach at Loyola Maryland.
In November, Jones was one of 60 players selected to participate in a weeklong national training camp in Bradenton, making a good impression during the last camp before the spring semester.
At Kenwood, the Bluebirds were young and inexperienced in a down season, but Jones always kept the games close and was a strong influence on teammates.
"He's an awesome kid and always been a positive role model," Kenwood coach Adam Mizell said. "He showed up and trained hard every day. He's an excellent role model for kids trying to get to where he wants to go. There's no question, he wants it. This is a great opportunity and the sky is the limit for him."
After starting out as a defender, Jones asked his coach if he could play in goal on his under-8 recreation team one day and immediately found his niche.
"I wanted to play in goal and stopped four or five shots that game. I had fun with it, so I stuck with it and have been in goal ever since," he said. "It's a great feeling when you make a big-time save — you can't really explain it until you do it."
Since its inception in 1999, more than 300 players have been through the residency program, and more than 100 of those players have moved on to Major League Soccer, or professional leagues abroad. Nineteen players have also earned at least one cap playing for the U.S. men's national team, including area standouts Kyle Beckerman and Santino Quaranta.