FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The enormous distance from Federal Way, Washington to Boston is just about on par with how far Kelyn Rowe has come over his four-year MLS career.
From wide-eyed rookie to injury-plagued battler to everyday competitor for a starting spot, Rowe continues to grow and mature as a professional. And as much work as he puts into his craft, his off-field routine is of equal importance in keeping the New England Revolution forward on an even keel in life.
Initially, being 3,000 miles from home was tough on Rowe, who knew no one on the East Coast when he arrived as a 20-year-old rookie after two stellar NCAA seasons at UCLA.
“I was a kid trying to make a name,” Rowe told MLSsoccer.com. “I was just running around as much as possible, trying to learn as much as possible.”
As he grew on the field, he also grew off it, finding solace in cooking, and a budding interest in fashion.
Now he cheerfully spends hours at a time over a hot stove preparing everything from Cali-style fish tacos to Louisiana gumbo, although doing so for just one person can at times lead to a space problem in his refrigerator.
“When I’m not [at the stadium], I’m either at the grocery store trying to find something to cook for dinner, or trying to relax at home,” said Rowe. “Cooking, for me, is one that is any easy way to get away. I can spend three to four hours in the kitchen and be fine with it. I don’t use a Crock-Pot for that reason. I use a big, cast-iron pot so that I can stick around and do something.
“I’m not at the point where I’m any exquisite chef … but I do enjoy it a lot. It’s so hard to cook for yourself, so I have a lot of leftovers. Every once in a while I invite some of the guys over, their wives and girlfriends, and have a big meal.”
When cooking at home is not on the menu, Rowe enjoys taking the short walk from his Charlestown residence in downtown Boston for a nice Italian dinner in the North End.
His fashion palate can cause problems on Boston's posh boulevard of commerce, however.
“If I lived over there, I would have no money,” said Rowe of shopping on Newbury Street, something he indulges from time to time with team fashion plate Charlie Davies. “Whenever I go out with Charlie, I end up buying something. He is a big fashionista. It’s always fun shopping with him. He gets me out of my comfort zone and lets me buy something that’s either extremely tight, or very colorful.”
Surely he finds plenty of satisfaction in his food and clothing. But there may be no greater reward for Rowe than being able to pay things back off the pitch.
A self-described ‘cocky kid’ in high school, Rowe was set straight his junior year by a friend named Houston Kraft, who noticed his behavior and told him, “Look, you’re an amazing guy and you’re going to make it big in this world. Make sure you’re a positive light in this negative world.”
It’s something that has stuck with Rowe ever since, and helped determine his path in life. He's chosen to use his celebrity to try and bring positivity to those in need.
“I want to be as positive as possible,” said Rowe, who routinely visits area hospitals to spend time with sick children. “To know that you’ve made a difference, it’s not only for them, it’s for yourself as well. I become a better person every time I see these kids smile. If I’m changing someone’s life, they’re also changing mine.”
He tries to take the lessons learned through these special interactions and employ them on the field.
Combining that with the knowledge gained by visiting sports psychologist Stuart Singer has helped Rowe take inventory of his time in New England.
“You want to put things in perspective all the day, especially on bad days,” said Rowe. “If we’re having a bad 15 minutes, we’re going to be okay. We’re always going to land on our feet.”
While he still straddles the line between promising young prospect and veteran mainstay, as he continues to mature, there appears to be no bounds to what Rowe is capable of cooking up both on and off the pitch.