New England Revolution midfielder Jermaine Jones spoke with reporter Morty Ain about what it was like to take it all off for ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue, where he was when Landon Donovan scored his 2010 goal (hint: not the bench), and prepping for the 2018 World Cup.
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When I scored against Portugal in the World Cup, that was the most important goal in my whole career. We were 1-0 back. We got so many fans to come to Brazil from the States to support us, and to score that goal to make it 1-1 -- emotion pools and everything comes out. It's like 10 different celebrations. It's crazy to explain. To score in that kind of a big game, it's crazy.
When Landon Donovan scored against Algeria, I was on the toilet. I had to pee; I tried to hold it, but I couldn't any longer. Then I heard all the people outside, and I'm thinking, "Oh my god, this is not happening." I run out and see them already hollering. That kind of stuff is always happening to me.
In Germany, I was only the bad boy, and nobody would really see me by what I did on the field. When I was young I loved that; I was always like, "Yeah! I'm the bad dude!" But now, as I get older, I'm more relaxed. I have kids, so I try to be a player that my kids can see and be like, "OK, I want to be like my dad." But sometimes the bad boy still comes out on the field. I'm a competitor, I hate to lose and I try to do everything to win. Sometimes maybe I go over the line. But people know that after a game we can sit down and talk and I'll be cool with them.
I had the nickname kampfschwein; that means "fighting pig." When I moved to Schalke [German team, in 2007], they gave me that nickname. It was like "he is a good player" or "he's the man." So I was like, "Yeah, I can live with that!"
I've got 15 or 16 years of bone breaks and cracks in my legs. In my left leg I've got nails. I've got two screws -- one in the left foot, one in the right. So it's kind of a mess, but they look in pretty good shape, even after that.
When I got a hernia before last year's World Cup, I kept playing. It's the best tournament in the world, and I was like, "No chance are injuries going to take me out of that." That's what I've learned with all my injuries: You can always fight through it. If the doctor gives you the green light, and if you can take the pain, you can go through almost anything.
Once I played with a hole in my foot. I tried to shoot the ball, and the defender lifted his leg to block it, so my foot hit the bottom of his studs, and it went straight into the skin. I felt pain, but I didn't see blood, so I keep going. Then at halftime, I see that everywhere I was stepping there was blood. The doctor is like, "You're out." But it was such an important game for the World Cup, and I said, "No, make the stitches, give me a painkiller, and I go." This was the snow game against Costa Rica [in Commerce City, Colorado, March 2013] -- I think that's why I didn't feel it straight away.
The point where everyone said, "Jermaine, you are nuts"? That was when I played in Frankfurt my second year [2005-06], and I got a hairline crack in my shin -- a broken leg -- but I finished almost the whole season. Eventually I went to the hospital and the doctor asked me, "So when did this happen?" I'm like, "Four or five months ago." He's like, "What?" I told him I push through it when I'm in a game, and he said: "Man, respect. You are the first one I've heard who has a broken leg and just keeps going."
The other kind of pain I've battled is with tattoos. That's the pain where my wife always tells me I'm being stupid. But I love it.
The most painful tattoo was the American star on my knee. Immediately when the tattoo artist started, it was like, "Oh, hell no!" It feels like somebody is holding a fire on your skin from the inside the whole time. I sat there for three hours. I stopped talking with everybody, I was done. I was just concentrating on my breathing. I went to training the next day with a swollen knee, and the coach was like, "What happened?" I'm like, "Yeah, I tried something, but I was wrong."
The weight room is not my friend. When I came to New England, I told the fitness coach, "You have to push me always, always -- if not, I will not go to the gym." But to play at this age and battle with the younger boys, you have to do it.
When I signed with New England [in 2014], I told them, "I will bring this team to the MLS Cup final." And I did it. Now I want to go back to the MLS Cup again; I want to win that cup. I told my team, "I'm not here to make friends with other teams; I'm here to win."
To put MLS in a battle with the German league or the Premier League, it would be too tough. But MLS is still young. I hope that at one point the whole world will look on and say "wow." You can see it already now -- you have big players coming to play here. Ten years ago, you would have had no chance to get those players, so you can see it's progressing.
I might feel tired, but you can always push it. Because if you gave that chance to another person, he would push it. In a game I think, "OK, Jermaine, what would the people in the stadium give to run the next three or five minutes? What would they give to be on that field?"
I have that dream to go to the next World Cup, to play one more. But I know there will be young players that will come and push for my position. So I have to take care of myself. I have to play every game, and when I play, I have to play 100 percent to prove that I'm in still shape. I will do everything to get back to the World Cup.
This is an online exclusive story from ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue 2015. Subscribe today!