Second round pick Ockford keen on Sounders challenge

After an interesting journey through college, Ockford looking forward to making presence felt with Sounders.

When Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid was asked to describe Sounders FC 2014 second round SuperDraft selection Jimmy Ockford, he invoked the name of a longtime Seattle workhorse defender.

“He’s got some Zach Scott-like qualities,” Schmid smiled. “He’s all about winning. He’s got good speed and quickness, but he’s just a hungry player.”

When Seattle picked Ockford with the 21st overall pick in the SuperDraft on Thursday, the crowd erupted, honoring the defender from nearby Yardley, Pennsylvania, as he walked to the stage to don the Sounders FC scarf.

VIDEO: Ockford MLS Combine highlights

“It’s unbelievable. Words can’t describe it,” Ockford said. “My friends and family all came out to support me and they had my back.”

Those close to him that have supported him throughout his collegiate career have been through some difficult times together.

Ockford followed in his brother Alex’s footsteps in going to Mount St. Mary’s in nearby Maryland, playing multiple positions. However, in November 2012, the college announced that it would discontinue soccer, leaving Ockford scrambling for a team for his senior season.

The good news was that he would be going to a perennial soccer power in Louisville. The bad is that he was asked to play a new position – center back – after playing his whole life in the midfield or as a forward.

However, the 21-year-old center back quickly rose to the challenge and eventually was named the America Athletic Conference Defender of the Year, utilizing many of the skills he learned as a midfielder to the role of defender.

“I think I just felt comfortable right away,” he said. “I think that helps me with the center back role because I’m comfortable on my feet, good in the air and physical. I think I have what it takes to play center back.”

VIDEO: Ockford MLS Superdraft selection

While versatility has brought him to the back line, Schmid thinks it can also mean time in other roles, such as defensive midfielder, as well.

“He’s tenacious and sometimes in his tenacity, people forget that he’s a pretty good soccer player, as well,” Schmid said. “If he plays in there, he’s going to be a guy that hunts the ball down. He’s not going to be a guy who waits for it.”

After selecting another center back in Damion Lowe in the first round, Seattle sought the best player available when it selected with the 21st overall pick in the second round.

“I think it’s a really solid building block into our defensive core,” Schmid said.

Ockford and Sounders FC will begin training camp on January 25.