My Carolina Experience: Bobby Rome
By Zoya Johnson, GoHeels.com
Bobby Rome was once a boy with dreams of playing in the National Football League.
In high school, Rome remembers being a huge fan of Ronald Curry, and how Curry's commitment to the University of North Carolina opened his eyes to the possibility of attending the university.
Reflecting on his own recruitment, Rome says, "My research on the university revealed to me that UNC had a great blend of athletic and academic success, therefore it seemed like a no-brainer." And so, he committed to UNC and followed Ronald Curry to become a Tar Heel.
Arriving at Carolina, Rome's top priorities were to have a successful football career and obtain a degree in the process.
Although he came into the program as a quarterback, he was moved to the fullback position during his freshman year and played in 49 of 50 games during his college career, missing only one game because of illness.
Years after following Ronald Curry to Carolina, Bobby now serves as an ambassador for the sport. He does so, however, thousands of miles away from any team he would have imagined playing for as a child.
Bobby Rome pursued his dreams of playing professional football and his unrelenting passion for the sport and relationships he forged over time have led him to become the first paid professional American Football player in Russia.
The actual salary may be modest in comparison to what he would have made in the NFL but the impact Rome has had on the presence of American football in Russia since his arrival has been more than worth the sacrifice.
"It's an amazing feeling to be an ambassador for the sport of football in Russia. I have traveled to many cities all over Russia to teach and coach American football," Rome says with a great sense of pride.
Rome's impact has been so far reaching that he has not only collected fans for his team but a potential rival as well. Florida football legend Tim Tebow was offered the equivalent of one million dollars to play against Rome and his Moscow Patriots.
Commenting on the opposing team's stunt Bobby had this to say," I think it shows my value and my influence on the game.
"Watching ESPN First Take and Good Morning America mention Russian football because of the offer to Tebow, which was influenced by the challenge I posed to the rival squad, was a mind blowing experience. I knew then I had changed the game of football in Russia as well as all of Europe for the better. My hard work on and off the field had taken the competitiveness and legitimacy of American football in Europe to a well-known respectable level."
Despite all of this, the publicity that Bobby Rome brings to Russian football is not the only perk of the job. It turns out that since becoming an ambassador for the sport he has been doing more than just playing and coaching to bring legitimacy to American football abroad.
"I have been recognized and rewarded for assisting in the startup of the first collegiate football team in Russia with Saint Petersburg МЧС России University," Rome comments.
"My next goal is starting an American football academy. I am currently looking for sponsors. My expectations for this academy are to not only to teach football but to give opportunities to student-athletes. I hope to show student-athletes who do not receive the initial chance to play professionally after college that there are other alternatives to playing the sport they love at a professional level."
His goals for football are a testament to the notion there is much more to life after being an athlete. Not only will he continue to instill the values of the American game through his endeavors but Rome's ultimate goal is to return to a college campus as a coach.
"I am confident that with my professional experience of playing in alternative professional leagues I will be able to relate and help a range of football players, from the starters to the last guy on the bench," he explains
Bobby's desire to be back at UNC at some point in the future is one shared by many within the Carolina family.
"When I attended the University, they upheld strong standards for their student-athletes. We were required to uphold the integrity of the University. Academics were taken very seriously and I am sure that's still the case."
Specifically, Rome mentions the support that Carolina student-athletes receive from their teammates, friends and coaches. "The brotherhood and camaraderie within the football team as well as with the alumni is second to none. While I was there, I was a part of a family and I truly felt that way and still do."
In response to how he serves as a positive example of what it means to be a proud alumnus, Rome says, "The best way to uphold my University is to continue to strive for success and to be the example of everything that's positive about Chapel Hill."
As a person who continues to prove the notion that the Carolina Family far exceeds the reaches of our campus and even the bounds of our nation's borders, Bobby Rome is a tremendous example of a person whose actions speak just as many volumes as his words.
About Bobby Rome: A native of Norfolk, Va., Rome played at Carolina from 2006-09. As a junior and senior, he played on Tar Heel teams which received bowl invitations.