May 11, 2010
Michael DeRocco is the kind of person who puts others first. That trend is likely to continue as the Niskayuna, N.Y., native becomes a captain of the 2010-11 Tennessee swimming and diving team.
"I want to create the best environment for the team," DeRocco said. "I want to help each guy anyway I can and make it the best year it can be for each of them."
When he arrived on The Hill, DeRocco was a diamond in the rough. He skipped out on swimming as a sophomore and junior in high school but made a comeback as a senior.
"He was out for two years, so the only time he swam in high school was his senior year," Mike Stone, who coached DeRocco at Niskayuna High School, said. "He was really rusty at first but he really picked it up."
It didn't take him long to work out all the rust as he went on to break a 35-year old New York state record that season.
"I missed swimming and that's why I got back into it," DeRocco said. "But I never expected to break any state records. It was all just to get back in it and have fun competing."
The record was not only significant because it stood for 35 years--the time DeRocco beat was previously held by Tennessee head swimming coach John Trembley.
"A lot of student-athletes can talk the talk," Trembley said. "But I think Michael is walking the walk. He leads by example."
Despite the record-breaking performance, DeRocco maintained a humble outlook. The attention didn't get to his head and that humility mirrors his expectations for a role as team captain. His goals are all about the team.
"Success starts with the leaders but it is a team effort," DeRocco said. "We need to keep our team together and everyone needs to take it upon themselves to make things happen."
While his humility leads DeRocco to be team-centered, his determination is what is noticed by his teammates.
"Mike DeRocco is a very focused individual," Michael Wright, also elected a 2010-11 team captain, said. "When he puts his heart and mind to something, he gets it done. I see that in the pool and outside the pool. He has a lot to offer our team."
His mind is set on something: a goal for every UT swimming captain is to earn the traditional coon skin caps.
Not just any team can earn the traditional coon skin caps. Only teams that truly exemplify unity are able to wear the cap and the last team to do so was in 2007-08--DeRocco's freshman year.
"I have experienced what the coon skin caps are all about and I know what kind of team it takes," DeRocco said. "It takes persistence and sacrifice, accountability and communication.
"We have to come together as a team and keep it that way all season. That should be a goal for everyone--to find a way for all of us to stick together."
His own ambitions aside, Michael DeRocco is set to lead this Tennessee team into the 2010-11 season. In his ambitions for the team, he embodies the Volunteer Creed, which is emblazoned on UT's Torchbearer Statue:
"One that beareth a torch, shadoweth ones' self to give light unto others."