A Conversation with an Illini: Jannelle Flaws

By Kevin McCarthy

Happy, humble and humorous — Jannelle Flaws, Illini soccer’s all-time leading goal-scorer sat down to talk with me about everything from her incredible collegiate career to her celebrity crush.

Kevin McCarthy: What does the Illinois all-time career goals record mean to you?

Jannelle Flaws: It goes to show all the good teams that I’ve been on through my years here. If I didn’t have dangerous scorers next to me it would’ve never been able to happen. It’s really a testament to the program — but it means a lot to me too — especially considering everything I went through with my knee injuries.

KM: You touched on those injuries — how were you able to overcome them?

JF: I’m just one of those people that takes what life gives me. There’s nothing you can do about it, you just have to move forward. Knowing that that’s how it was going to be, I had to figure out how to get myself back to where I wanted to be.

I really started to study the game — watching film with my coaches. That was when I really took my game to a new level tactically.

KM: After that second knee injury, was there ever a time that you thought about quitting?

JF: Yes, there was. Actually, before my redshirt junior year, I came into preseason in the fall, and my coaches were asking me, “What happened? You’re in the same place you were at the end of last spring.” I was like, “I don’t know if I still love it as much as I used to. I don’t want to stop, but I don’t have that same passion.”

And (head coach) Janet Rayfield said, “You’ve been out of the game for so long — I think you forgot what it feels like. Give it time. I know you — your dream is still to wear the red, white and blue and to be a professional soccer player one day.”

I think it was about two games in — I scored a hat trick against Illinois State, and I looked at her and said, “I’m back.”

KM: In that moment when you said you realized you were back — what went through your head?

JF: It just felt so good. I felt like I was back to being that “go-to” player. I felt like I was getting my leadership role back. I’ve always been that player that wants the ball on her foot in the big moments — I want to score the game-winning goal. I like the pressure. It felt so good when I started to get all of that back.

KM: What makes Jannelle Flaws so good on the field?

JF: Ummm… (laughs)

KM: C’mon. You’re allowed to brag a little.

JF: Honestly, I just have the glory role. I get to score goals. I’m very dynamic in the final third. I’m very good with my back to the goal — I know what movements open up space behind me without actually having to see those spaces.

KM: You might go down as the greatest Illinois soccer player of all time — did you ever envision that possibility?

JF: I don’t even know if I would put myself near that level. There are so many parts of the game that people don’t see. Some players have roles that require so much dirty work and hard work that doesn’t get any recognition. Those players are great, I’m not any better — I’m just a better goal-scorer. That’s where my strength lies.

KM: What are your personal goals looking beyond this year?

JF: I definitely want to play professionally. I also want to shoot for the national team. There’s a lot that I have to get better at. I’m not there yet.

KM: Watching the U.S. Women’s National team win gold at the World Cup over the summer — how did that hit you? Did you think, “That could be me one day?”

JF: Watching them this summer, I felt like I could play at that level tactically because I really study the game. But, I definitely need to get my technical game to that level, and my fitness to that level. I think I have a shot. After watching them win a World Cup — it definitely made me hungrier for it.

KM: Rapid fire questions… Favorite TV show?

JF: Suits.

KM: Favorite ice cream flavor?

JF: Moose Tracks.

KM: Celebrity crush?

JF: Jimmy Fallon.

KM: I can totally agree on that. Favorite team to go and watch on campus?

JF: Men’s tennis. They’re all of my best friends.

KM: At last — before I go — I have a challenge for you. I stand between the pipes and attempt to stop a penalty kick from you. Are you in?

JF: Yes!

KM: Deal. One more question: if you kicked 10 PK’s at me, would I be able to stop one?

JF: You could maybe stop one… if I didn’t hit it very well.

This is actually going to happen after the season is done. As long as the football team can provide me with a helmet and full pads, I’m ready to go.

Kevin is a sophomore in Media.
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@KevOMcCarthy