Gateway: Sports

Gig Harbor’s Nate Jones commits to University of Washington soccer

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In the fall, Nate Jones will be entering his senior year of high school at Gig Harbor. It will be his final year playing for the Washington Premier Football Club, his off season team, and the Tides’ school team.

And most of his friends and classmates will be trying to figure out what they are doing after they graduate. But not Jones.

His plans were settled last Wednesday when he verbally committed to the University of Washington to play college soccer, achieving one of his lifelong dreams.

“I’ve always wanted to go there,” Jones said. “The coaching staff was so relaxed about the recruiting process. They didn’t want to rush me and I liked that. This is an important decision that will dictate the next four years of my life.”

Everything that’s led Jones to committing to the Huskies started when he was around four or five years old picking up soccer for the first time.

Jones started off playing in the local Gig Harbor leagues before progressing into Harbor Premier. Much like his sister Jazmin, Jones eventually stepped up to Washington Premier Football Club, where he and his family felt he would develop his sharp skills.

And it paid off big time.

“Soccer has been key to my life,” he said. “[Jazmin] has influenced me a whole lot. We play the same position and she did the whole thing with recruiting and I think that really helped because she helped me email coaches and she knew the entire process.”

Jones’ recruiting process began as college coaches started to pay attention to him after emails were sent by his WPFC coach John Yorke. Recruiters came out to a few tournaments and invited Jones to camp.

“That’s where they got to see me the most. They got to see who I was and after that, they asked me if I wanted to visit,” he said. “After we toured the campus and talked with my parents, I ended up committing there. I thought it was going to take a lot longer, but it was only a couple of months.”

The Huskies are getting an exceptional soccer player as Jones has been the standout leader for the Tides.

Head coach Joe Ross has had Jones all three years he’s been coaching, and knew instantly that Jones was something special.

“Nate has an extremely high soccer IQ,” Ross said. “He can read the game, he is very good at anticipating the opponents and he has the natural athleticism combined with the technical skill that makes him that player that stands out above the rest.”

One such example of Jones being a standout player was in 2018 when the Tides found themselves down 2-0 to North Thurston for the 3A SSC league championship.

Ross needed something to happen and decided his best course of action was to move Jones up to a forward position. Within the last few minutes, Jones scored a hat trick for the Tides and the Tides won, 3-2.

“He’s the kid the minute you walk onto the field and the ball is kicked off, you have to watch that player. You have to know where he is,” Ross said. “He makes for a very versatile player that makes him very enticing to colleges.”

Both Ross and Jones also have a good relationship with each other as well.

Ross has spent time with Jones on the practice field by pulling him to the side and getting him comfortable making decisions about formations and personnel.

“I help mentor him with conversations before and after practices and I put him in leadership roles,” Ross said. “I knew he was destined to play college soccer. I would pull him aside during practices and ask for his input to have him make decisions and be more comfortable doing that.”

Last season, Ross and Jones led the Tides to a berth in the Class 3A boys soccer state tournament, where Gig Harbor advanced to the quarterfinals.

The Tides fell 1-0 to Bellevue. But Jones sees that as a positive for the younger group of players this season.

“I feel like we have a good chance of taking it farther because the younger guys got a taste of state and everything,” he said. “I think we are going to come back hungrier. And with them playing club over the season, I think they’ve matured more.”

The Tides and Jones will take to the field in the spring to gear up for another run at the state championship. But until then, Jones will continue to improve his game.

“I just want thank my coaches and everyone who has got me to this point,” he said. “I know I couldn’t have done it by myself.”