This is His Country

Dec. 9, 2008

By Larry Watts

Talk about your name recognition. Try having the same name as your uncle, a Grammy Award winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, and going to the same school where he has invested millions of dollars in support of cultural, sports and educational programs.

"I try not to use my credit card too much," says John Mellencamp, nephew of John Cougar Mellencamp. "But I wouldn't mind having a chunk of that change."

"People around Bloomington still have a lot of fun with the name recognition," says the Indiana University senior. "It can be a hassle at times, mainly because when someone meets me, they always remember my name but I don't remember theirs when I see them again. I'm terrible with names."

And no, he doesn't have a key to the school's Mellencamp Pavilion, the indoor practice center for a number of the Hoosier athletic teams. "But it's never a problem getting in there as long as you know the team managers," the younger Mellencamp says with a laugh.

Because of his commitment to soccer and school, Mellencamp hasn't attended many of his uncle's concerts of late, but he still remembers "Paper in Fire" as one of his favorite songs from his younger years. But every now and then, his uncle, who resides in the Bloomington area, does come out to a Hoosiers soccer match.

Mellencamp and his Hoosiers were stringing together some hits of their own just at the right time, but that run ended with a 3-2 loss to St. John's in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals Saturday night. Mellencamp, a 5-foot-10 midfielder from Cincinnati, collected four goals in his final season, two of which came during tournament wins over Saint Louis and Michigan.

"I like the NCAA Tournament, that's when I score all my goals," says Mellencamp, who scored his first career goal as a junior in last year's NCAA Tournament. "I seem to pick up my intensity more at tournament time.

"This season has been a real roller coaster ride to be honest, but as I look back, it was such a thrill. We had a great preseason, got into a slump, got out of it, went into a slump again and everything started to click right before the Big Ten Tournament. We should have won that tournament, but that field (in Madison) was such a mud pit."



Come Dec. 20, Mellencamp will earn his business degree. But don't look for him to be seeking a music career.

"I'm leaving that up to my older brother Ian," he says. "Ian's got a band that has played with my uncle and he's a pretty talented writer. I'll often pop some of his CDs in. I hope he makes it big so I can ride his coattails."

Unlike his legendary uncle, Mellencamp goes to the beat of a different drummer. For the past year, he has gotten into a different kind of rock -- rock climbing.

"A few friends and I are thinking about starting a rock climbing business," he says. "It's been a great cross-training for soccer, something I can even do during the season because it helps me build up my shoulders and upper body. It really energizes me. After practice, I often grab a bite to eat and then do some rock climbing at the Hoosier Heights indoor facility.

"This has been a great release after an intense or bad (soccer) practice. Climbing those walls really chills me out."

Mellencamp said his biggest test to date came last summer when he and some buddies ventured to Red River Gorge, Ky. to climb 90-foot cliffs.

"It's like a big puzzle, a real mental and physical challenge,"' he says. "It's an unbelievable release, you against yourself. It's very insane and calming at the same time."

Mellencamp admits some people may think he has a few rocks in his head.

"Once graduation is over, I'm going to scope things out," he says. "I'll find a place to live close by (in Bloomington) and just see where that takes me. I know in this economy, I may be living in a tent and riding a bike, but I'm not exactly in a hurry to put this degree I'm earning from the Kelly School of Business to good use.

"I know it's probably not the wisest decision, but I'm young (22). I wouldn't mind trying this for a couple of years and I think it would be neat to take a few trips around the world and find unique places to climb. I think we'll be fine as long as we make enough money to cover our expenses and anything extra we make we'd give back to the climbing community."