September 27, 2002

The Good Samaritan

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As a 6-3, 252-pound defensive lineman, junior Kevin Rooney is physically one of the most intimidating members of the line. But when he is not in his pads staring down an offensive end, Rooney spends the time left over after classes and practice contributing to several good will organizations.

“I don’t go out much,” he laughed when asked how he balances his time. “I go to practice and watch film and do what else I can.”

In fact Rooney’s efforts have just recently been recognized as he became the first Cornellian named to the American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team. Each year the ACFA recognizes collegiate football players who contribute to charitable or community based organizations. Rooney is the only Ivy League player selected this year. But true to form, he is reticent to accept the praise from the honor.

“It says a lot about my coaches and Laura [Stange, Cornell director of Athletic Communication], that they made that extra step and went the extra mile for me. I think we’ve had people much greater than I around here.”

Rooney currently is the vice president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) at Cornell. He has actively participates in the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC), Big Red Readers program, and the Cornell/Ithaca College Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

His involvement at GIAC included being a gym supervisor, and mentor. However he managed to help set up a basketball league and serve as a coach.

Although he enjoyed working with a large numebr of area youths, Rooney is looking forward to the opportunity to working one-on-one with individuals. This year he intends to become a big brother to one of Ithaca’s underprivilaged youths. His interview to match him with his future little brother will be later this week.

“A couple of us, five or six, are going to be big brothers this year. At GIAC I had contact with about 12 guys, but this is going to be one-on-one with a little brother who needs it, and it’s going to be a good experience for both of us,” Rooney said.

Even with the amount of time he spends at practice, organizational meetings, and good will work, the history major has found time to succeed academically as well. Last year he was on the Academic All-Ivy team. But this is nothing new for the Stockton, Calif. native, who has a record of being a good Samaritan.

Rooney was a founding member of the Special Olympics Club at St. Mary’s High School all while excelling academically. He was twice named to the Scholastic All-California Interscholastic Federation.

“Growing up, my parents made us realize how important it is to give back to the community. From the very start we were involved with the church and school activities and just giving back in any way we could,” he said.

As the vice president of SAAC, Rooney has been successful in incorporating more of his fellow athletes into the charitable organizations around Ithaca such as fund raising for the Ithaca Kitchen Cupboard and GIAC.

“I would like to see the SAAC group more involved and I think we have been. You can ask any member. The meetings have been much longer and more extensive, and we’re trying to be heard on campus,” he said.

As a member of SAAC, Rooney is also interested in trying to reverse a decision by the Ivy League presidents to bar student-athletes from participating in organized varsity practices or training regimens for seven one-week periods during the academic year. This seven-week rule has become the ire of many of the athletes within the conference. It requires that coaches schedule 49 days into the academic year that are free of any mandatory, optional, or captain’s practices.

“We want to get our feelings heard by the administration and the people in charge. We got some interesting results from a survey conducted last year that don’t really reflect the decision,” he said.

That goal has not veered Rooney from his other aim of donating time to Ithaca and its surrounding areas.

“There are so many ways that we can give back, ” he explained. “We aren’t just students or athletes, we’re trying to contribute to the community.”

Archived article by Amanda Angel