LAUDERHILL, Fla. – During the first half of a game during his junior year at UC Davis, MLS signee Ramon Martin Del Campo took a fall and landed awkwardly on his wrist.
He thought he’d just jammed it, equating the pain to the way a finger feels after a clumsy catch in football or basketball.
He found out the next day that the wrist was fractured. Not that it mattered. He’d finished the game the night before, and didn’t miss a match for the rest of the year, playing with a cast on his arm to continue leading the Aggies from his center-back position.
“The ball was hit over my outside back; I went in to cover him, and as I went in to clear the ball the guy shoved me,” he told MLSsoccer.com on Sunday. “I tried catching myself, landed and fractured it.
“I thought it was fine, so I got up, went to mark a corner kick and shook it out, but it hurt way more when I did that. Then I was just sort of in a mood where I was like, ‘whatever, let’s go,’ just sort of entered beast mode and just played the whole game.”
A charismatic Californian easily identified by his booming voice, shaggy beard and flowing hair, Martin Del Campo’s intense on-field manner propelled him from relative anonymity at UC Davis to big heights in 2014.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound defender played with the US Under-23 team and San Jose Earthquakes U-23 PDL side in the last year, impressing enough with both squads to play this summer against the senior national team in a pre-World Cup scrimmage at Stanford University and earn significant time training with the Quakes’ first-team.
It’s been quite the ascent for Martin Del Campo, who said that didn’t even have college soccer on his radar until he was 16.
“It’s been such a blessing,” he said. “The timing was just perfect. My junior year I was finally being seen, then the Earthquakes thing opened up, I went for it, didn’t hesitate at all and then just kept moving forward, kept enjoying the ride.
“I got to play against the national team before they headed out to Brazil, had a great game against them, saw it as a test for myself, saw that I could hang, saw that I could hopefully in the future be better than some [of the national teamers]. Then getting called up to play with the first team of the Earthquakes was great, saw it as another test. Thought I did really well for myself there, thought I proved to the guys on the team that I could play and also thought I proved that I’m a good teammate, too.”
Prior to the start of the 2015 adidas MLS Player Combine, Martin Del Campo was projected as a potential top-five pick. He hasn’t shown very well so far in South Florida, however, and his stock has taken a hit ahead of Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft.
Still, it’ll take more than a couple of lackluster games to knock the shine off of the San Diego-area native, who recently attended the Earthquakes’ Combine under new San Jose head coach Dominic Kinnear and has maintained a relationship with former Quakes boss Mark Watson, now an assistant with Orlando City SC.
“Whatever happens Thursday, whatever pick I go, whatever round I go, I just see it as a blessing, man,” he said. “I mean, how many people can say they have a shot to get picked? How many people can say that they went to the Combine or went to the draft?
“It’s amazing. In my head, every time people ask, I just think it’s amazing. You get some people going, ‘Yeah, I knew it was going to happen,’ and all this, but for me I got to give it up. You’ve got to stop and smell the roses, you got to take a chill pill, look around, take a breather and say, ‘Man, this is really beautiful.’”