Going All Out
Oct. 9, 2003
After talking with Danny O'Rourke, one would get the impression that he sees soccer balls in his sleep. If ever there was an athlete to be the true representation of a sport, Danny is him. The Indiana University midfielder has a passion and drive to play soccer that shows on the field.
In his Indiana athletic biography, right next to all of his impressive accolades, it says that Danny, "Brings tremendous energy and stamina to the position… goes all out, all the time."
That's quite a compliment among a team of elite players. Danny chalks up his endless energy to just being blessed with athleticism. But, he always had to work hard at soccer to refine his skills.
"In order to make it to the next level, I had to push myself really hard because I always thought I needed to keep improving," says Danny. "I always had this feeling that when everyone else was sleeping, I was working hard. It just carries over to the field I guess."
There's no guessing that his work definitely carries over to the field. Danny has started every match for the Hoosiers in which he has played, going back to his freshman year (36 to date). He was named first-team All-Big Ten following the 2002 season, and to the College Soccer News All-Freshman Team in 2001. Danny was also an NSCAA All-American coming out of high school and the captain of his high school team, which won a state championship.
Danny started playing soccer at age four. It was his dad, a former NFL player, who got him started.
"I don't really think he had any idea what he was doing, but I didn't know that then. He got me started and got the ball rolling."
The ball rolled all the way to Indiana University and coach Jerry Yeagley's tradition-rich program.
"Being in the Midwest, you hear how prominent Indiana soccer is. So I was always growing up looking at who the best teams were… You hear about them winning all of these championships and coach Yeagley, and when I started getting recruited by these schools, Indiana just stuck out. I'd be like 'Oh geeze, I just got a letter from Indiana.' And I'd be really pumped about it."
Danny's IU soccer career hasn't been all smooth sailing. Last year, while warming up for a game against Northwestern, he and a teammate collided. The result was three broken bones in his face and five games on the sideline. Danny now has two permanent metal plates in his face. The bad accident, however, hardly altered his approach to the game.
"Maybe going up for headers I would kind of think twice at first. It's kind of second nature now, it's probably stronger than it ever was."
After sitting out with his injury, Danny came back to help lead his team to the Big Ten Tournament semi-final match and the third round of the NCAA tournament.
Danny's effort on the field has earned him the respect of his coaches and teammates. They voted him to be a team captain this year, a high praise for any athlete, especially for a junior. Danny says being the captain of a college team has been difficult for him, but he's trying to learn.
"What I lack in communication, which I'm trying to work on, I try to make up for in setting an example with how I play. I try and rev the team up and keep them going."
His energy and style of play are a good combination for his roles as midfielder and captain. It's also an attribute that allows Danny to succeed as a student-athlete. Balancing collegiate soccer with a major in biochemistry is as difficult as it sounds. It often means making sacrifices like sleep, or missing a team workout, but the Academic All-Big Ten honoree has made all of the right choices.
"I think this experience is only going to help me in the future, because I think it will only get harder from here."
Danny O'Rourke chose Indiana for soccer because of its great history. He looked up to the great soccer players of the past and follows their professional careers. He thinks about past teammates, such as Pat Noonan (New England Revolution), who are currently in the Major League Soccer ranks.
It's easy to imagine some young soccer player looking up at Danny, dreaming, with soccer balls in his eyes.