By: Katarina Jonev
Belgrade, Nov.16, 2009 (Serbia Today) - In a small town in middle America the commentator’s voice blasts across the stadium, "And now Serbian – Dejan Roncevic.” The crowd breaks out into enthusiastic applause. As disjointed as this image may seem, one of the stars of Lindenwood University’s ‘American football’ team is Serbian player Dejan Roncevic.
Located in St. Charles, Missouri, Lindenwood University is situated in one of the many parts of the US where they take their football seriously. Thanks to Dejan Roncevic’s athletic skills he has been able to find a prominent place in this football team’s roster.
Admiringly known by his teammates as the ‘Serbian nightmare’, Roncevic begin training as a youth for the Belgrade Wolves. In 2007, the club won the Serbian Championship and won the Central European Football League title. His talent did not go unnoticed and he received the offer to continue training in the United States.
“When I came to America I impressed trainers with my strength, speed and way of thinking. But they were not satisfied with my basic technique, so I started to work harder and on a higher level and the results can be seen,” said Roncevic.
About his reception in the US, Roncevic had this to say, “From the first days most of his teammates accepted me without problems, but there were also those who doubted in my qualities because I'm from Europe where this sport is not generally popular.” Roncevic and his teammates where both surprised by the speed with which he made the transition to the US football college scene.
“For me it was strange that after only two years of experience on the Serbian scene I had come here and in the first year I got a chance to show my skills. In my first season my team finished third in the NAIA league,” said Roncevic, who is the only foreigner from outside of the American continent, which plays in the NAIA division. Roncevic expressed satisfaction when asked whether he was satisfied with his current teams chances for the next season.
“As I said we finished last season at third place in NAIA league. Now we have started the season as the third-ranked team and we won in 9 games with no defeats. We have great chances of winning at the national league, so we are training very hard to give ourselves every chance,” said Roncevic.
Roncevic is grateful that he selected American football as his sport, despite the fact that he was actually very good in a number of sports and that American football is not popular in Serbia.
“I had trained karate for 3 years, water polo for Partizan for 2 years, handball in Red Star for 4 years and I've won many medals. I even trained for bob sledding, and was a member of the national team of Serbia and Montenegro. Nevertheless, when I heard about tests for American football club, my friend and I decided to try. I can freely say that it was mostly out of curiosity I started training for this sport, but now I cannot imagine my day without it,” reflected Roncevic. Roncevic found the transition to America and its training challenging, and difficult.
“After only few months I was able to fight for second place in the team on my position on the defensive squad. The first days in America were not easy for me because I missed my family, friends, and Belgrade a lot. But I got a full scholarship to the University here and my professors and coaches believe that one day I can succeed in this sport. That gave me then and now the additional motivation to work diligently. Every day I learn something new here and I enjoy that fact,” said Roncevic.
When asked if playing college ball for a university in Missouri bore any resemblance to NFL matches televised in Serbia, Roncevic had this to say, “American football is the national sport here. Seats in the stadium are always filled down to the last seat. Here, every game is truly an experience! The crowd is really great, and they always support us in large numbers and cheer until the last minute.”
Trainings at 7 AM in temperatures as low as minus 12 C, or weekend training at 6 AM in the gym were initially difficult for Roncevic, but perseverance and strong motivation to succeed kept him on track.
“Since I started to play this sport, I have dreamed of coming to America and playing here. I can freely say that I live my dream even though it is not easy as it seems. After little more than two years spent here the coaches are more and more satisfied. I am improving myself from day to day and my team mates respect me very much, not only because of my skill as a player but also because of positive energy. My teammates also appreciate my translation of Serbian jokes that I am telling them non-stop. I have not neglected my studies and my average rating marks is 3.60 (out of 4.0).”
Roncevic’s success in American college football, and his bright future there demonstrate yet another example of talented young Serbs being embraced by the world community when they show the dedication to succeed.