Revolution star Jay Heaps retires

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Calling himself the luckiest athlete for having been able to play for his hometown squad, Jay Heaps formally announced his retirement from Major League Soccer after 11 seasons Wednesday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.

"I'm a very emotional player, person; that's how I live my life, that's how I played the game," said Heaps. "But today is not about being sad, the emotion is not there for me. It's not sadness. I'm here with absolutely no regret. I can walk away from this game knowing there's a huge love for it in my heart that will always remain in my heart.

"I loved playing Revolution soccer. It meant the world to me. It was an honor to play it for the Kraft family and the Revolution organization. As most of you know I'm from Longmeadow; born and raised in New England. As a kid growing up... I was a big Red Sox fan, big Celtics fan, and big Patriots fan. As a young kid, those are the teams, the colors I bled for. I feel like the luckiest athlete here to have been able to play for my home team. I've been able to bleed for the Revolution."

Heaps, the second overall pick in the 1999 draft out of Duke University, where he was also a walk-on for the men's basketball team, earned the MLS Rookie of the Year honor for Miami before being traded to the Revolution before the 2001 season.

He spent eight years in New England, playing a team-record 243 games, while guiding the Revolution to four MLS Cup finals (2002, 2005, 2006, 2007). While the league championship evaded him, Heaps helped the Revolution win the US Open title in 2007, and a SuperLiga crown in 2008.

The 33-year-old Heaps also played for the US national team during the 2009 CONCAF Gold Cup, an opportunity that certainly helped ease his way into retirement.

"Like I said, I have no regrets ... The one thing that might wake me up one night a month from now, a year from now, is that I got to touch the MLS Cup but never got to hold it up," said Heaps. "Four times, we were so close."

Heaps told Revolution coach Steve Nicol to think of him when the Revolution does bring home that championship in the near future.

Despite saying it wouldn't be an emotional day, Heaps did choke up at times while thanking his family for their support. Heaps' wife, Danielle, and his two children, Jack, 4, and Olivia, 2, were part of a large family crowd at the ceremony. His sisters dabbed at tears after a highlight reel of Heaps' career played at the start of the ceremony.

The Revolution presented Heaps with a photo collage of his career after the ceremony.

"For the past nine years, [Heaps] personified what it means to be a Revolution player," said Vice President of Player Personnel Michael Burns. "I can't remember a single day, practice or game, where he didn't give everything he had. He's been a true leader for a very long time. He brought professionalism day in and day out for nine years and he'll be sorely missed."

Heaps plans to join Morgan Stanley Boston's office as part of the PWN travel work management division. He's been interning there for the past 18 months, anticipating a day like this would come, and decided this season it was time to move on.

He plans to bring the same intensity as he did on the soccer pitch.

"We don't have the luxury of other pro athletes," said Heaps. "You have to separate soccer from the others, because we don't make millions and millions... [Morgan Stanley] is something that lit me up. My dad is the president of a bank in Western Mass. and I've always enjoyed the financial world. It lit my fire; it's something that I'm going to enjoy."

Chris Forsberg is a roving reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.