NEW CASTLE —
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.”