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Damion Lowe making name with Inter Miami, Reggae Boyz

Whenever Jamaican soccer fans in South Florida meet Inter Miami center back Damion Lowe, they want to hear stories about his father, the legendary Onandi “Nandi” Lowe, who had a prolific career in MLS, England and Jamaica and played in the 1998 World Cup .

Damion, who followed in his dad’s footsteps and is captain of Jamaica’s “Reggae Boyz” national team, is happy to share tales of his father. But he is equally proud to talk about being the grandson of the late Keith Lowe, a welder who raised Damion and his nine younger siblings while their father was on the road playing soccer.

“My grandfather is an inspiration to me, he built our family, the legacy, he made sure we went to school, we weren’t distracted by the things around us because growing up it was pretty rough.” Lowe said after training on Tuesday. “He was our gaffer [British slang for coach] and he holds a special place in my heart.”

Onandi Lowe was not around much during Damion’s childhood, so Damion’s mother and grandparents were in charge.

“My Dad was always away because he was playing professionally in England, so he came home only for summer breaks and then he would get called up for the national team, so I didn’t see him a lot,” Lowe said. “My grandfather took care of us, tried to keep us safe. We didn’t go outside too much, didn’t go to parks. We are from a dangerous area, a lot of gun violence, turf wars and shootings. But we were a well-respected family.”

When Lowe got a scholarship offer from the University of Hartford, his grandfather was so elated he bought his grandson a first-class plane ticket from Kingston to Hartford and gave him $60 to keep in his pocket.

“He was so excited because I was the first to go to university in my family; it was a big thing,” Lowe said. “I was opening doors for a lot of kids in my community, inspiring them. He bought me a first-class ticket and as a young 17-year-old, I didn’t realize what that meant. All of a sudden, I am going through the check in line fast and in a big seat, got good food. I am forever grateful. It’s an experience I’ll always remember.”

Now, he rides on charter flights with Inter Miami, which is preparing for a home game Saturday against Minnesota United. Lowe, 29, is a regular in the Inter Miami starting lineup. His one lament is that his grandfather never got to see him playing beyond high school.

Keith Lowe fell ill shortly after Damion went to college and died during Damion’s first semester.

“He never got to see me play in a college game, he never got to see me represent my country, and he never got to see me play professionally,” Lowe said. “It was heartbreaking. I feel like he’d be so proud. He’d be the loudest at the stands. At least he got to see my father play in a World Cup, but I feel like it would be so special for him to see me play.”

Lowe said his grandfather taught him to be the best at whatever you do.

“He was a welder and worked at the cement company doing real hard labor from the time he was a teenager until he passed away,” Lowe said. “He was a skilled worker. His life was his family and his job.”

The athletic genes run deep in the Lowe family.

Damion’s sister Onanda is a long jumper and runs the 100 meters and 4×100 relay for Jamaica.

“She’s really good,” said her proud brother. “She was injured and is just coming back now and is one of the top athletes in Jamaica.”

His brother, Andre, is a soccer player and played for the Tampa Bay Rowdies Under-23s and with the Seattle Sounders academy team. “He’s left-footed, center back, big, 6-foot-3 like my father,” Lowe said.

Another sister, Leah, is running track for Great Britain.

Lowe’s career has taken him to Seattle, Norway and Egypt, but he is most comfortable in South Florida, in the climate and tropical culture he grew up with. Lowe moved to downtown Miami four years ago, long before he signed with Inter Miami.

“When I was playing in Norway, it was very cold, so every time I had a break I would come to Miami,” he said. “I needed somewhere warm. I moved down and got settled. It felt like home, the neighborhood people here who migrated from Jamaica know of me and my father and followed his career back in the day.”

He likes to go to Cypress Creek Park on Saturday mornings to watch local Jamaicans in pick-up games. Lowe has his favorite restaurants for Jamaican cuisine: Dukunoo Jamaican Kitchen in Wynwood and Barbican Square in Miramar. He also likes to cook Caribbean recipes passed down from his mother and grandmother.

“I cook ox tails, curry goat, jerk chicken, the whole works,” he said. “Just like home.”