Football and politics in Slovenia

Devin Lagorio '14 is coaching football in Maribor, Slovenia, while he's sidelined with a broken hand.

June 19, 2014

For Devin Lagorio '14, a journey to central Europe brings together passions for politics and football.

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Devin Lagorio loves both football and politics.

But the 2014 Pacific University alumnus never imagined he would end up engaged in both, in central Europe, just months after graduation.

Lagorio, a football player and politics major at Pacific, is playing and coaching American football in Slovenia, one of the countries that emerged from the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. And, he’s working as a political campaign adviser for the Pozitivna Slovenija (Positive Slovenia) candidate in the nation’s upcoming elections.

“I honestly knew nothing (about Slovenia) besides what I looked up on the basic Wikipedia and Google search,” he said.

But, he added, “Attending Pacific opened my eyes to the world at large and took away all the fear I had to experience the world and different ways of life.

“When approached with the opportunity to venture out into the world, I was all for it.”

LAGORIO CAME TO PACIFIC FROM ST. MARY’S HIGH SCHOOL IN STOCKTON, CALIF. He helped lead the high school football team to its first undefeated season in 30 years and earned a place in the Division II State Bowl Game. He chose Pacific after high school for its atmosphere and to keep playing the sport he loved as a member of the university’s inaugural team after reinstating the sport.

Here, he was an anchor on the defensive line and led the Boxers and the Northwest Conference in blocked kicks.

Meanwhile, he majored in politics, “because I was and am fascinated in how society functions,” he said. “My stay at Pacific with the brilliant and wonderful educators I was blessed with only drove me to want to not only see the difference of social structures and ways of life in different states, but also different parts of the world.”

As a senior, Lagorio was invited to play in the National Bowl, comprised of top players from Division II, Division III and NAIA schools.

“I knew I had the opportunity to continue my career,” he said. “After that game I talked to Pro Arena football teams, some Canadian teams and many European teams.”

Most, however, would have required him to report in April, before he finished his degree.

“I would not miss graduating, no matter the terms,” he said.

Eventually, he was contacted by a coach in Maribor, Slovenia. The Maribor Generals are reigning champs in the Alpe Adria Football League, and Lagorio was invited to play and coach with the team.

He caught a plane the day after graduation in May.

UNFORTUNATELY, LAGORIO’S PLAYING SEASON WAS CUT SHORT. On his second day in Slovenia, he broke his hand at football practice. Not realizing it was broken, he played through the first game one-handed. Eventually, though, he discovered the hand was not only broken but shattered and required immediate surgery.

He’s spent the rest of the season coaching and, in the meantime, has had the opportunity to see the countryside and immerse himself in a different part of the world. One night early in the trip, for example, a teammate took him to a village party where he met Luka, a campaign organizer for Pozitivna Slovenija.

“I saw this as an opportunity to truly learn about the politics of this country. Luka and I sat there at the wine and beer tent and talked politics all night,” he said.

Later, Lagorio was invited to attend elections, meet members of Parliament and, eventually, to serve as a campaign adviser for the upcoming Parliamentary election.

“What my position specifically means is I work with the party and candidate to help form the platform he runs on,” Lagorio said. “I am one of the brains behind the scenes who gets to help mold what my candidate stands for and how to approach the process of getting our message out there.”

LAGORIO HAS AN OPEN-ENDED TICKET TO RETURN TO THE STATES. The football season wraps up June 28, when his Generals face the Kranj Alp Devils in the league championship. Lagorio’s hand has healed and he plans to get back on the field for the game.

Even after that, though, he will continue coaching, and he will keep working on the political campaign through the July 14 election.

He ultimately plans to return to California, where he will prepare for law school and try to get his foot in the door in local politics.

“My education at Pacific truly opened my eyes to not only the domestic opportunities but also the foreign opportunities,” he said. “One major thing I learned from Pacific is there is always so much to learn about the world.”