Nebraska fans will remember Brandon Rigoni as one of Nebraska’s toughest special teams defenders, racing down the field on kickoffs to level opposing kick returners. A former walk-on, Rigoni not only earned a scholarship, but was also voted both Lifter of the Year and a team captain by his teammates during his senior year in 2006.
Off the gridiron, Rigoni was also a standout in the classroom, as an eight-time Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll selection as well as being named twice to the academic All-Big 12 team.
Recently, he added a new accomplishment to his academic résumé - a study-abroad program in Italy, where he spent a few months learning about Italian culture, Italian language, and most importantly, Italian food. Upon his return, he took a few minutes to "Prendere Dieci" with Huskers.com.
1. You just got back from a trip to study in Italy. What region of Italy did you live?
I lived in a small city named Lecce, in the far southeast corner of the country (the heel of the boot), about 12 kilometers from the coast.
2. What kind of a program was it?
I was a part of a study-abroad program through Arcadia University in Philadelphia. The great thing about Nebraska is that if there isn’t a UNL-sponsored program in the location you want to go, they will work with programs at other universities so that a UNL student can essentially go wherever he or she would like for a study-abroad experience.
3. Why choose that particular program?
This particular program emphasized cultural immersion. Very little English is spoken in Lecce and the city (like much of the southern half of Italy) is more "traditional" than the tourist hot-spots of the north like Venice, Florence, Milan, and Rome.
4. Was it your first time overseas?
This was my first time overseas. In addition, I had only seen the ocean one time before leaving.
5. What kind of things did you learn outside the classroom that will help you too?
I believe the lessons I learned outside of the classroom will prove quite beneficial. I had no previous Italian language experience when I left, so my problem-solving skills were immediately put to the test as I moved in with three guys that spoke very little English. I learned to function in the city by recognizing patterns of behavior and watching closely for non-verbal cues (Italians love to speak with their hands).
6. Did you get the chance to travel much while you were overseas?
Each weekend I traveled to a different location in the Salento region. On top of that I did make it to Naples, Rome, and Venice in Italy, and even Amsterdam, London, Paris, Munich, Vienna, Tyrol, Lacurn, Rhine Valley, and Salzburg before returning home.
7. What was the most fun thing you did on your trip?
Anyone who knows me well knows I love to eat. The traditional Italian dining experience was something I enjoyed. Sometimes lasting three hours, each course (sometimes as many as 7 of them) is presented in an orderly fashion. The food is delicious in southern Italy (very fresh) but the emphasis is on time spent in conversation around the table with family and friends.
8. Nebraska’s got a fellow Italian at the helm of the football program now in Coach Bo Pelini. What are your thoughts about the new direction of the program?
Coach Pelini asked me about the food in Italy when I first returned to Lincoln, so I think we are going to have some common ground! When Coach Pelini was here before, his players were willing to do anything for him. In 2003, I was young and had not contributed on the field yet, but I felt I had my role and was part of something special. I think Coach Pelini’s greatest asset is his ability to motivate and gain the trust of those following him.
9. Can you give Husker fans a message in Italian?
Il cibo italiano é delicioso! (Translated, "Italian food is delicious!")
10. What’s your next step, now that you’re back?
I am currently in graduate school at UNL, studying biopsychology under Dr. Dan Leger. My focus is stress physiology as it relates to athletic performance. In addition, I am helping out in the weight room (as a volunteer assistant), where my true passion lies.