Standing at a sizeable 6’4” and playing as the outside hitter for UC Irvine’s men’s volleyball team, Jeremy Dejno is a formidable force to be reckoned with. Demonstrating exceptional fluidity and explosiveness on the court, Dejno gives off the impression of a natural-born athlete who was born to play volleyball.
However, Dejno’s success in the sport doesn’t derive from God-given talent, but from his impeccable work ethic and an unwavering dedication to volleyball.
During his childhood, Dejno would spend several hours at a time bumping the ball to himself. As in any other sport, learning how to properly control the ball is a fundamental skill required for any athlete. Guided purely by his liking for the game, Dejno never looked at it as if he were putting in extra work, despite how repetitive or tedious the action in of itself may have been.
“It’s like juggling for the first time, you know. I could do it for hours just seeing how many I could do in a row.” said Dejno. “Sometimes it was ten, sometimes it was up in the fifties; now I could do it for all day.”
Aside from his dad playing recreationally, Djeno doesn’t bear any lineage in regards to playing volleyball within his family. Born in New Berlin, Wisconsin, Dejno grew up in a city where the Green Bay Packers and basketball was more likely to be the talk of the town rather than volleyball.
The Wisconsin native’s first spark of interest for the sport came about in the midst of family reunions, where his father and extended relatives would set up a net in the backyard and play a few rounds. Being only ten years of age at the time, Dejno could only watch from the sidelines since he was barred from playing due to likelihood of injury.
“It was horrible volleyball, the worst volleyball you’ve ever seen; just standard Midwest [volleyball]” said Dejno. “There was no sense of any fundamentals or anything but I really wanted to play.”
Dejno’s first official foray into volleyball wouldn’t be for another two years, since he had to be in the fifth grade to become eligible to play sports at his school. As a fifth grader, Dejno took full advantage of his newfound privileges, participating in basketball and track as well in addition to volleyball.
“After my sixth grade season I started playing club when I was 12 and just kept building and building.” said Dejno. “I was attracted to the family aspect of it, the community aspect of it.”
With his stellar work ethic and drive, Dejno quickly became a standout volleyball player and would enjoy an exceptional career in competitive play throughout high-school.
Playing for the West Allis Lightning Volleyball Club, Dejno helped his team finish 5th in the JOVC (Junior Olympics Volleyball Club) Open 15s division, where he was also named to the All-Tournament team. As a member of the 2010 U.S. Men’s Junior National Team, Dejno won gold at the NORCECA (North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation) Championships. In 2011 he was selected to play for the U.S. Men’s Junior National Team but was unable to compete due to injury.
Dejno’s high school career is just as impressive. In addition to being an All-State First Team honoree and All-Conference First Team selection twice, Dejno led his team to win a state championship.
Due to his notable performances at the state and national level, Dejno received several college recruitment offers. Unwilling to compromise on academics and athletics and vice versa, Dejno sought out a school where he would be able to thrive in both aspects.
“I thought I could reach my potential highest in Irvine,” said Dejno. “[Volleyball] and academics, those two were balanced, and they weren’t balanced on this settling level, they were balanced on this very high level.”
Since attending UC Irvine, Dejno has earned honors as a three-time UCI Scholar-Athlete and a MPSF (Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) All-Academic Scholar Athlete. Upon graduating, Dejno plans to turn professional.
To better himself as a player, Dejno would study films of Brazilian volleyball greats, Dante Aramal and Gibe Filho. Although he idolizes them for the success they have achieved throughout their careers, it is important to note that he doesn’t blindly worship them as if their accomplishments are unattainable himself.
“I think that once you put someone before you, once you say that this person is my hero, this person is the epitome of greatness, then how are you ever going achieve that if you believe that someone is better than you?” asked Dejno. “That may be very egotistical, but in a sense you’re not ever going to get anywhere if you’re always thinking that everyone’s above you.”
Don’t misconstrue those words for arrogance, for they aren’t the words of a conceited player, but of a player who isn’t afraid to dream big and push himself to the utmost limits.
There’s no question that Dejno approaches volleyball with an intensity and focus that can only be rivaled by athletes of the highest caliber. Every game he strives to put forth his best effort, and for Dejno, preparing for a game isn’t just a part time affair where he simply sets aside an allotted amount of time for conditioning and practice, it’s a lifestyle.
“All that matters is what you do right now and taking ownership of that moment, and in volleyball it applies that there is no score in the moment, you’re not down by 10, you’re not up by 10. Those are all just external. Same thing in life, you can’t get bogged down by [your failures] or [gloat] in your successes, you let those go, you just do what you need to do in that moment.”
For Dejno, this is made all the more evident by the principals he applies not only on the court but in life as well. In the same way that Dejno and his teammates approach each game point by point, Dejno believes that life should be lived moment to moment.