New Castle News

November 27, 2013

Football News: Union grad to suit up for Team Europe — and Team USA

Corey J. Corbin
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Jordon Rooney will be a busy man next month. And that has very little to do with Christmas.

The 23-year-old will compete in a pair of football games a little over a week apart near the end of December. He’ll play for Team Europe in the Euro-American Challenge on Dec. 20 in Myrtle Beach and pull on the Team USA jersey eight days later in the CanAm Bowl in Minneapolis.



NO REST FOR THE WEARY

The 2008 Union High and 2012 Westminster College graduate will leave on Dec. 16 for the Euro-American Challenge and return to New Castle on Dec. 21, before leaving Christmas night for the CanAm Bowl.

“I have a busy schedule,” said the son of Mike Rooney and Jodie Sizer. “I’m not going to let the opportunity slip. I’ll be working hard up until the games. I’ll be ready mentally and physically.”

Rooney will suit up for Team Europe in the Euro-American Challenge, which only accepted 12 percent of its applicants and had 70 percent of its players earn a professional contract in 2013.

The event features recent college graduates from the United States and Europe and current/former professional players looking for a new contract.

“I got a message from this guy, who runs the Euro-American Challenge,” Rooney said. “He said European players aren’t as good as American players and they needed American players that had played in Europe to represent Team Europe. There’s a couple guys on Team USA that were in NFL camps this year. The competition is going to be intense.”

The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Rooney found out about the CanAm Bowl while searching the Internet for games to play in. He sent in his film and was invited to play.

“I was looking online at different bowl games,” said Rooney, who received sponsorships from five local businesses to help cover transportation, meals and lodging for both events. “They were looking for players to play for Team USA to go up against Team Canada and I said ‘Why not?’ This could be a great experience for me. It’ll be great exposure.”

The Euro-American Challenge offers more opportunities than the CanAm Bowl, Rooney noted.

“The Senior Bowl is the next day and they’re having a job fair,” he said. “The game in Myrtle Beach (Euro-American Challenge), I’m looking forward to a little bit more, because there’ll be scouts there from every different level. I’m definitely excited.”

The CanAm Bowl does have its perks.

“Putting on the Team USA jersey is going to be kind of cool no matter what it’s for,” Rooney said. “It’s going to be weird playing against Team USA (in the Euro-American Challenge). My friends aren’t sure who to root for. I told them to root for me.”

American and international scouts will be in attendance at both events, but Rooney said it’s important to perform well in the game as well as on the practice field.

“I think it’s important to do well in both,” he said. “To be able to differentiate would be hard. My mindset is I’m going to perform well in practice and in the games. I don’t even think like that.

“When I was younger, I’d feel pressure in different situations. Now, I’m just so grateful for the opportunities that I don’t feel pressure. I feel like I’m giving myself no choice but to succeed. It’s more me embracing what’s going to happen.”



LOOKING BACK ON SERBIA

Rooney had a successful first season overseas, scoring 13 touchdowns in six games and leading Mladenovac to the European Division 2 championship with a 21-7 win over Vrbas.

He concluded the season with 25 receptions for 300 yards and rushed for another 310 yards, while passing for 405 yards. Rooney added seven interceptions and nine pass breakups.

“We actually won our league championship,” he said. “As we started winning games, the city really started to support us. From there, we got some publicity. The team I played on has been in existence for eight years and never even made the playoffs.

“Serbians are surprisingly athletic. They train for soccer their entire life. They’ve never even touched a football before. They’re not pro level. They’re not close to being NFL level. A lot of guys were fast and a lot of guys were strong. Football has only been over there for eight years, so it’s new to them. The only ones making money were the Americans. They play football for pride and for something to do. They take so much pride in being an underdog. Being from Union and going to a very small high school, I can relate to that.”

The Serbian lifestyle opened up Rooney’s eyes.

“The thing about being over there is I grew as a person,” he said. “Serbia is such a small country. I think there’s only six or seven million people there. It was kind of cool. In my town, I was like a celebrity.

“They work 14-hour days. A part-time job there would have gotten me the equivalent of $2.25 an hour. They have no choice, but to work hard. In America, you have other things you can fall back on. In Serbia, there is no military and there is no such thing as welfare. The government is so corrupt. They work so hard and mind their own business. They don’t have much drama.”



LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

Rooney is still looking for somewhere to play this spring and is leaning toward a spot in the Arena League’s minor league system.

“That’s something that I’m working toward,” Rooney said. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet, but my main goal would be to play in the Arena League. I want to play there, because I think for my future, I’d be better off.”

A return trip to Europe is definitely a possibility.

“I’ve been talking to a team from Spain and a team from Finland,” said Rooney, who just wrapped his first season as cornerbacks coach at Westminster. “I’m cool with going overseas again. My friends in Serbia want me back bad. They’re offering more money. If I’m going to go back overseas, it’s about exploring new areas and I feel like I left my impact on that town in Serbia. I wouldn’t get as much out of it. Going to another place in Europe would help me, because I’d get to meet new people and explore new cultures.”

No matter where football takes him, Rooney has a message that he wants to get out there and wants to use football as an avenue to deliver it.

“I want to inspire some of the young kids that I work with,” he said. “I want them to believe they can work through adversity, which they can. I want to build a platform, so I can speak and relate to people. That’s something I like to do. I don’t know if it’s arrogant or not, but I think the things I have to say and the things I’ve gone through can help people. Who’s going to listen if I’m just some random person? I feel these different accomplishments give me the platform to speak and get a message out.”

(Email: C_Corbin @ncnewsonline.com).