American Football is thriving all over the world, especially in Europe. To help develop the sport and keep competition at a high level, American players are “imported” onto club teams in various capacities. These players get paid to play the game they love while seeing the world and experience different cultures. The Valencia Firebats American import, Donald Rocker, allowed me a detailed interview about his first year experience in Spain.
How did you get here? What’s your football journey?
I played 3 years at WKU, then decided to transfer, but certain things got in the way of that. I wasn’t done playing and I had a friend who was playing in Serbia and loved it. So I got in contact with his agent who is now my agent, and got connected to European teams.
How do you like it in Spain?
It is a beautiful country. I love it here.
How do you like the People in Spain?
They are decent. Everyone stares at me because they aren’t used to seeing someone like me walking around.
What is your go to meal in Spain?
A kebab. It’s like a cheaper Chipotle.
Do you spend a lot of time with teammates or on your own/with other imports?
Mostly on my own but I do spend a good amount of time with my other OL import.
What level would you compare the football played there to in the United States?
Probably closer to small high school ball. A lot of guys don’t even put on pads until they are 18, so it’s a lot of learning going on.
What do you see as some of the biggest differences between football in the states compared to Europe/Spain?
The seriousness of the game. In Spain, its serious but its more fun oriented. Also, there are no game promotions, so not many fans come to the games.
How have you personally helped your teammates and coaches develop their American Football knowledge during your time abroad?
I coach the OL and DL on days where it’s more teaching opportunities. I try to teach them to slow the game down in their minds and think.
What are your plans after the season concludes?
Go back to America and get back to training.
What advice would you give to someone playing football in Europe/overseas for the first time?
Be patient. These guys are very inexperienced and have not been taught. So they do things that you aren’t used to seeing.
Can you sum up what American Football means to you?
Everything, I had a football in my hands the day I was born.