Walk-on Rowland becomes All-American for Lobos

We stay on the soccer theme this week -- by popular demand -- as we turn to New Mexico soccer star Jeff Rowland. Jeff was named CollegeSoccerNews.com's National Player of the Week last week for scoring all of the Lobos' goals while UNM beat two Top 25 teams. He's a preseason All-American, and his school is ranked in the top five.

Mike Hall: You were a walk-on at New Mexico. How'd you get passed over?

Jeff Rowland: I don't know. I didn't really do much in high school to stand out or be recruited heavily. I tore my ACL midway through my junior year, so I was out eight months recovering. So I missed all the big tournaments but I didn't do much then to stick out.

Hall: So then, what video did you watch to get really, really good?

Rowland: Ha … pretty much just hard work. It's all about the coaches and the players. And the guys we got on this team are really good, and they help me out a lot along the way … and I give most credit to the coaches.

Hall: So there was no new way to look at things, no new exercise technique, nothing different that took you from unnoticeable to preseason All-American?

Rowland: No, I just try to get in the box, play hard and put the ball in the net. I don't know how to explain it. Just pretty much workin' hard and tryin' to make the right runs, the right passes and work on my touch all the time.

Hall: Whatever. You're on steroids, and we all know it. College soccer team to beat this year?

Rowland: Other than us?

Hall: Yes.

Rowland: Indiana is always a team to beat. UCLA, all the same names are usually big … Santa Barbara, UNC Greensboro, Virginia … there's always a lot of teams to beat.

Hall: OK. That was nine teams, and I asked for one.

Rowland: Oh, ha, sorry. I say Indiana 'cause they've won the last 2 years and that's pretty upsetting.

Hall: How do you match up against Indiana?

Rowland: I think we match up very well against them … last year, we actually beat them, so, we just need some luck in the tournament.

Hall: Give me someone famous who shares a birthday with you.

Rowland: (long pause) Famous? (longer pause) I have no idea.

Hall: I looked it up … you were born on June 18, right? I got Roger Ebert and Paul McCartney (both born in 1942).

Rowland: Nice. I did not know that.

Hall: Well, now you have something to talk about at parties. Best soccer road trip you ever went on?

Rowland: Maybe this past weekend. I scored three goals this weekend and just had fun with the team. (We) went to the USA-Mexico game, which was cool.

Hall: Aw, I was expecting a story like you guys ditched out at night and raided a local sorority.

Rowland: Ahhh, we don't do any of that.

Hall: All right, I'll …

Rowland: Not on the trip!

Hall: Anything left in college you want to do before you graduate?

Rowland: Probably get to the Final Four. Maybe national championship (would) be nice.

Hall: What's a Lobo?

Rowland: (indignantly) It's a wolf!

Hall: And, do they teach you that in freshman orientation?

Rowland: Yeah, they do. Well, they don't really teach it, but they give you all the things you're supposed to do at games. Yeah, they're fierce wolves of course. They're not lame wolves.

Hall: What's the weakest mascot you can think of?

Rowland: I'd say the Syracuse Orange.. But I kinda like them, so …

Hall: What do the walls of your apartment look like?

Rowland: I actually have a house. They're kinda blank right now, but they're covered in soccer scarves and posters pretty much. I didn't paint em. They're just as they came. Pretty much just soccer stuff.

Hall: Typical meal for Jeff Rowland is what?

Rowland: I like sandwiches for lunch, and I like steak and pasta. I have steak at my parents' house a lot … probably once a week there. They're only 20 minutes away, so that's pretty awesome.

Hall: What sort of passions do you have outside of soccer?

Rowland: Probably just watchin' sports. I like to watch football and basketball.

Hall: Like fútbol or football?

Rowland: Well, I like to watch soccer, of course. That's my favorite to watch. Then probably college basketball, college football and professional football. I like to hike, spend time outdoors. There's some good places to hike in New Mexico.

Hall: How physical is college soccer?

Rowland: Pretty physical, actually. You can get beat up pretty badly in this game. Everyone likes to hit hard in soccer. And college soccer is no different, and people like to hit ya.

Hall: Last week, I asked Indiana's Jake Peterson, and he said it was more physical than international play. But college was overall more a finesse game than I gave it credit for. You agree?

Rowland: It probably depends on what team you're playin'. Some teams are more physical, some more finesse. Our team's pretty physical, but we have both.

Hall: Should soccer make any changes to make the game more mainstream for Americans?

Rowland: I don't think so. I don't know how to make it more mainstream.

Hall: Maybe a bigger goal or same-sized goal but no goalie … something to make scoring increase?

Rowland: No, I don't like that idea.

Hall: What if, instead of professional athletes playing, we had Hooters girls playing.

Rowland: I'm sure Americans would like that, but that's not getting my vote.

Hall: Best soccer movie ever made?

Rowland: Well, they haven't been that great, but "Mean Machine"or "Shot at Glory," one of those two I enjoyed.

Hall: Worst?

Rowland: Probably "The Big Green." Ha. Even though I still like it 'cause it's a soccer movie!

Hall: How are the Lobo ladies?

Rowland: They're nice. Good lookin' ladies runnin' around. Definitely. Good lookin' ladies on the soccer team, too.

Hall: Does your cell phone blow up with ladies tryin' to date the soccer star?

Rowland: Actually, I have a girlfriend, so I can't be doin' any of that.

Hall: A real one or a make-believe one? 'Cause I got a make-believe one.

Rowland: I have a real one. She plays soccer for UNM (Katelyn Ley).

Hall: Very good. I'll stay away from her, don't worry. I mentioned your cell phone. How fancy is your cell?

Rowland: Mine's not that fancy. No camera phone or anything. I have a flip phone.

Hall: Most high-tech thing you own?

Rowland: My laptop? IPod? I use my iPod all the time. I travel with it, listen to it before every game, after games.

Hall: Non-dirty Web site you frequent?

Rowland: Soccernet.com and mlsnet.com. Soccernet is the world soccer … English soccer. I'm into EPL.

Hall: What comes to your mind when I say "Saved By the Bell"?

Rowland: The lame show that everybody likes. They probably shouldn't (watch), but you do anyway.

Hall: So you like it, though?

Rowland: I mean … well … (sigh) of course, everybody likes to watch "Saved By The Bell." It's lame, but everyone watched it when they were a kid. It's true, everybody watches it. They don't want to admit it.

Hall: Well, we like to think this is the forum to admit it!

Mike Hall is the signature anchor for ESPNU.