COLUMBIA - Columbia College sophomore defender Nikola Velickovic is quite the vocalist both on and off the soccer field.
According to his teammates, when their captain is not barking out orders in practice or games, the Cacak, Serbia native can be found singing anything ranging from rapper Eminem to some of his favorite Serbian tunes. Velickovic, in fact, is so comfortable with his voicethat he is not afraid to give his fellow Cougars a private concert in the team's locker room shower.
Is Velickovic just as accomplished of a singer as a soccer player?
"No," said freshmen Matt McKenna, shaking his head, "not at all."
Velickovic remains unfazed by his teammates' criticisms.
"They say I have like really awful voice," he said. "I usually just put my iPod on and I sing and I sound awful, but I don't care. I cannot hear myself; I just hear the song."
Velickovic's care-free attitude about his singing amuses his roommate and fellow defender freshmen Jovan Ilic.
"He can walk with his iPod in his ears and sing loudly walking through campus and singing some Serbian song," Ilic said. "It looks really strange. He just doesn't care about anyone."
According to Ilic, all the fun about Velickovic's voice disappears when they are on the soccer field together. The two can be heard conversing with each other in Serbian, telling each other to go to a certain location on the field or to mark an opposing player.
Ilic said sometimes during games it is advantageous to speak to each other in Serbian instead of speaking in English.
"It's easier to communicate in some important moments of the game or where there's no time to think about something and say it in English," Ilic said.
Apart from directing his roommate on the field, Velickovic's voice also helped in getting Ilic to come to play for Columbia College.
Velickovic said Coach Klein asks him for background information about prospective Serbian players who might attend Columbia College. Ilic was one of these players and when the Cougars became interested in Ilic, Velickovic began communicating with him.
According to Ilic, the correspondence between himself and Velickovic was the deciding factor in his decision to become a Cougar despite receiving an offer from another school in Mobile, Ala., that offered him a full scholarship and also would pay for all his expenses.
"Nikola was here and he told me everything I needed to know," Ilic said. "When I came here, every time I needed something, he was there for me. So we're pretty much close."
They still have their disagreements and most of their friction comes from Velickovic's voice.
"He talks too loud," Ilic said. "That's one my issues with him. When I'm trying to take a nap or something, he turns on Skype and he always wakes me up."
Velickovic says the other reason he is noisy is because he wants to watch the soccer games being played in Serbia, especially the ones involving his favorite team, the Belgrade Partizan, and nothing deters him from watching them.
"I have my favorite team and I'm not missing any of the games," he said. "It doesn't matter when the game's on. I'm just always being loud, when we're losing or winning."