American Football is thriving all over the world, especially in Europe. To help develop the sport and keep competition at a high level, American players are “imported” onto club teams in various capacities. These players get paid to play the game they love while seeing the world and experience different cultures. One of these import players, Sean Shelton, was kind enough to answer a few questions about his time in Austria with the Swarco Raiders.
SHELTON’S FOOTBALL JOURNEY
Sean is no stranger to football in Europe. Where have you played other than Austria with the Raiders? Elancourt Templiers (France), Helsinki Roosters (Finland), and Anders Trojans (Finland)
How did you eventually start your European career?
I was a four year starter at William Jewell College, where I honestly had a pretty mediocre career on paper. During my time at Jewell, we were transitioning from NAIA to NCAA Division II and like most schools that make that transition, it was a tough first few years. So my career was an uphill battle of trying to establish ourselves as a D II program and a battle to stay healthy. I didn’t miss many games but I wasn’t healthy for many either. Needless to say, my career did not go as well as hope and when I had finished my last game at Jewell, which ended in a game-losing interception in OT, I knew could not end my entire career in this way.
I hadn’t attracted that much attention from pro scouts during my college career and I knew that the NFL regional combine route is a tough one to take as a no name, so I turned to alternative options. I was told about the website Europlayers.com and made a profile from more of a “why not” stand point and I ended up getting some serious attention. So much so that a Elite Division french team contacted me, the Elancourt Templiers, so I signed with my sights on making an impact on European American Football and to climb the ladder within the sport and I have been able to accomplish quite a bit in 3 seasons.
LIFE IN AUSTRIA
How did you like it in Austria?
I really enjoyed living in Tirol, which is the state of Austria in which Innsbruck is in. Out of the three countries I have played in, I have felt the most comfortable there and it happened in a pretty short amount of time and I think that is mainly because I related to and became friends with the Tiroleans so quickly.
Do you spend a lot of time with teammates or with other imports?
I actually spend more time with the coaches than anybody else within the Raiders Organization mainly because since the Raiders are fortunate enough to have a full time coaching staff, I do office time with them every morning for a few hours. So in the afternoons, I like to be at home and spend time with my girlfriend before heading to practices in the evenings. So socially I don’t see the guys all the time but the nice thing about our team is we enjoy each others company so much that I actually look forward to practice and meetings because we make it the monotony of a football season actually enjoyable.
What level would you compare the football played in Europe to in the United States?
It’s funny cause I get asked this question a lot and I never really knew how to answer it until this year because we actually brought a division III school over and beat them. So I am confident in saying that the top level of European football is comparable to small college football in the states.
ADVICE FOR FUTURE IMPORTS
What advice would you give to someone playing football in Europe for the first time?
I would tell them to put yourself out there. Travel, meet new people, share ideas, thoughts, and believes with these new people. Truly experience these new cultures and learn from them. I think being an import american football player is one of the greatest learning experiences a person possibly can have because you have the opportunity to immerse yourself into an environment that requires teamwork and communication from people who were raised in a culture different than your own. Some may not even speak your language! But you still have to figure out how to bond and work together effectively and I think that is one of the biggest learning experiences anyone could ever have. But I often see or hear about guys not taking full advantage of it and that is a shame.