2005-05-12 / Sports
Newbury Park grad leaving for Sweden to play pro football
Member of class of 2001 will help game grow in Europe
Newbury Park grad leaving
for Sweden to play pro football
By Kyle Jorrey
Newbury Park graduate Mike Tromello has spent much of his athletic life proving his critics wrong on and off the football field.
First it was those in middle school who said he was too big and didn’t have the footwork. Then it was critics in high school who said he didn’t have the makings of a college athlete. And finally, it was anyone who doubted that he would put in the time and effort required to earn a college degree.
"When I came out of high school, I had a chip on my shoulder and something to prove, that’s what it came down to," Tromello said. "But rather than let it get to me I said, ‘Screw that. I’m going to work my (butt) off and accomplish the things I want to accomplish.’ So I started putting in all the extra time in the weight room and in the classroom to do what others said I couldn’t."
This Sunday Tromello will gradute from Occidental College with a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in education. A day later, Tromello will board a plane for Gavli, Sweden to fulfill a season-long contract as a member of the Red Devils, an upstart football team in the European Federation of American Football (EFAF).
The opportunity came to Tromello, a self-proclaimed "big oafy" lineman turned speedy linebacker, after he completed a successful season on a Div. III Occidental team that went 8-1 and took first place in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC). He played weakside linebacker.
"I just put my name on this website, europlayers.com, and I started getting a lot of contact from coaches over in Europe," the 22-year-old said. "My coach at (Occidental), Dale Wildolff, really went to bat for me, kind of acted like my agent, and before long I had two contract offers: one from Sweden and one from Italy."
After mulling over the idea for about a month, Tromello decided to pursue the opportunity in Sweden, and put off hanging up his cleats for at least another summer. He said he picked Sweden over Italy because of the advice of friends and because of the fact that the majority of the people in Sweden speak English. He also liked the fact that he will be given the chance to coach up-and-coming European players, and help bring the 3-4 defense, which Tromello learned at Occidental, to the Red Devils.
"The football is nice, but really what this is about is the experience. I’ve never been to Europe in my life," said Tromello, who admitted the farthest he’d been from American soil is Tijuana. "Plus, I like the opportunity to coach prep football. I would love to be a coach someday and I hope this will get me prepared for that."
While football has nowhere reached the popularity of soccer in Europe, Tromello said he heard the sport is growing there. Much of the attention has been fueled by NFL Europe, but smaller organizations like the EFAF hope to find a home in the Northern Hemisphere as well.
"You’d be surprised," Tromello said. "You can find kids playing football all over the world right now."
After completing his contract, which includes 10 games, the graduate said he’s returning to So Cal and Occidental to finish pursuing a graduate’s degree in social science and teaching. But while he’s there, the history buff plans to take in all the landmarks he can while traveling across Europe to play football.
"I’m definitely taking my video camera," Tromello said. "I just want to see everything they can show me, all the historic sights. I hope I can take back something I can show my students some day."
As far as any fear of a culture shock, Tromello said he’s knows he’ll have to get used to Sweden—but Sweden will have to get used to him as well.
"It’s going to be interesting, but I’m looking forward to it," Tromellow said. "It will be interesting to learn a new culture—and Sweden has a unique one. . . . I’m sure I’ll have plenty of questions, but I expect they’ll have questions of me to."
After all is said and done, the kid that everyone second-guessed hopes to one day to return to his alma mater—and become a football coach.
"I can see myself coming back to Newbury Park and becoming a coach, I think I’d like that," he said. "Maybe give some kids more encouragement than I got back then, less negativity. I like to think of myself helping return Newbury Park to the football status it used to have."