Defoe's decision to leave the Premier League for Toronto and Major League Soccer in 2014 appeared to have dealt his worldwide career a fatal blow, with even a prolific scoring spell that steered Sunderland away from near-certain relegation last season not enough to force him back into Roy Hodgson's Euro 2016 plans.
Defoe has scored 14 times in 28 league appearances for Sunderland this season, but David Moyes's side are now rock bottom of the Premier League table, seven points from safety.
With Southgate's men taking on world champions Germany in a friendly this week before a World Cup qualifier with Lithuania, Ward-Prowse says the players want to prove that they can become the top team on the global stage.
The call up will boost Defoe's ambitious hopes of making it to the 2018 World Cup, should England qualify.
"You have to be realistic, to get into any squad is based on merit and to do that you have to be playing at the top level", said Defoe, who has scored 19 goals in 55 games for England. The boys I was competing against were playing in the Premier League and Europe and that was probably why I missed out.
Manchester United forward Rooney has endured a frustrating campaign at Old Trafford, becoming a bit-part player and starting just one Premier League game in 2017.
Despite his long spell in the worldwide wilderness, Defoe said he never gave up hope of a recall. In this team I think I will get chances to score because of the quality. But it didn't stop me working hard and just hoping that one day I'd get that opportunity. But I was just hoping I would get the opportunity again and now it has come I am delighted.
'I was getting a lot of stick from the lads at the training ground because I've still got the England flag on my boots, ' Defoe said.
"If you're in a side that's playing well and creating loads of chances, you're going to score goals". "If I do get an opportunity to go to another major tournament it would be a dream".
"Being lucky enough to have experienced it, you just want it more and more".
"You've got to make a captain who's going to be a regular player and go from there".