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. The Flash de la Courneuve (France) American import, Jawaugn Arnold, allowed me a detailed interview about his experiences in Europe.
How many years have you played in Europe?
This is my 2nd year.
Where have you played previously?
I have played in Orebro, Sweden for the Black Knights.
Which team was your best experience why?
Orebro Black Knights (Sweden) was the better team experience due to the higher level of competition. Also, it was much easier to communicate with teammates because they learn English at such a young age.
Which country was your best experience?
Sweden was the better experience due to speaking English, and can be much easier to approach. People in France are much more reserved.
The Jawaugn Arnold Football Journey
It has been quite a journey of working upwards, which I don’t mind. I respect the process, and it is also humbling. My college career started out at Bluefield College in West Virginia, which was an NAIA school. It was my only official offer. I took the offer because it all sounded good, but after while I realized it wasn’t the place for me. I sought out help from my high school head coach who had heard from the University of Charleston (Division 2) where I spent the next 4 years playing. After finishing my career there I was invited to an all-star game, which resulted in a CFL try out which I wasn’t able to attend being in Sweden. Sweden happened randomly. I get a text one morning asking, “How did I feel about playing in Sweden?” I was all for it of course, but it took some thought because I had not finished school yet. I ended up taking the offer. After the season I decided I wanted more, and a coach from a team we had played asked would I be interested in playing in the new NGL league. I had been signed to a team, then all had fallen through when they cancelled the season. I decided to make a Europlayers account, and after emailing a few teams I had some replies taking the best option. I signed with the La Courneuve Flash, and here we are.
How do you like it in France?
I have had a mix of feelings about France due to events that have taken place. From riots around our apartment in Bobigny to terrorist attacks in Paris. Coming from a small country town to the hustle of cities in France was a major difference for me. I have experienced things I’ve only witnessed on the news. I am very used to the southern hospitality back home in my small country town. The city is too fast paced for me so people can come off rude at time. Also, like I stated before it’s tough not knowing French, so people are pretty reserved most of the time.
What is your go to meal in France?
My go to meal in France is definitely a kebab, and Mergez from Petite Carrefour or a beef barquette from Fermier Gourmet.
Do you spend a lot of time with teammates or on your own/with other imports?
I have spent time with a few players, but usually if I go out it is with the imports. If I’m out exploring the city or doing tourist things I tend to be alone.
What level would you compare the football played there to in the United States?
I don’t believe it can be boxed in that way. Every conference has its dominating teams, and all team has their athletes like any other which I believe could compete at any level. The only thing that separates American football and international football is experience.
What do you see as some of the biggest differences between football in the states compared to Europe or France?
The only difference I’ve seen is internationally is it is just a club, hobby, or just a passion to them. In America it is a way of life for us. When a football athlete it’s year-round, weekly, and literally no days off. There is always something whether practice, meetings, or film. It never ends offseason or regular season. Just a nonstop grind.
How have you personally helped your teammates and coaches develop their American Football knowledge during your time abroad?
In Sweden/France I’ve helped coach giving my techniques I have used to the elite, women’s, or younger teams. I also offered to meet teammates no matter the division to meet at the gym for workouts or skill acquisition.
What are your plans after the season concludes?
I’m not entirely sure. I still need to finish my last semester of college to finish, so I will more than likely work towards completing my degree. However, anything can happen, so I’ll just take it a day at a time.
What advice would you give to someone playing football in Europe/overseas for the first time?
Do research on the area before you commit to a contract, and don’t have expectations going in because you never know what to expect.
In one sentence, can you sum up what American Football means to you?
It’s a way of life.