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 Reus Imperials (Spain) American import, Nate Stephens, allowed me a detailed interview about his experiences in Europe.
THE FOOTBALL JOURNEY
How did you get here?
I went to junior college in CA and then received a scholarship to play at Dixie. After a year off, I got a call from the head coach of the Reus Imperials to come play some more ball in Spain. After talking to some family and friends, it was an opportunity that was hard to pass up. A place to stay, some money on the side, and another chance to go play the game I love… I couldn’t turn it down.
LIFE IN SPAIN
How do you like it in Spain?
I like it. It is a very relaxed country. They take naps in the middle of the day, love their Sangria and red wine, and the beaches are beautiful.
How do you like the People in Spain?
The people, especially those within the team organization, have been great. Nothing but good things to say. The language barrier can be tough, but we all improvise.
What is your go to meal in Spain?
My go to meal is not a Spanish dish. We have a Kebab restaurant pretty much right across the street from our apartment and we give the business a bi-weekly visit on average.
Do you spend a lot of time with teammates or on your own/with other imports?
I live with all four of the other imports, so we spend just about all day everyday together. We do go out with the rest of the team and stay in contact with them a lot, as well. Good people.
FOOTBALL IN SPAIN
What level would you compare the football played there to in the United States?
It can vary throughout the season, with different teams. There is talent on the field but it’s definitely a different type of game here in Spain. I don’t like to compare, but the games quite a bit slower here. It’s fun to switch things up and think more instead of playing more solely off instinct.
What do you see as some of the biggest differences between football in the states compared to Europe/Spain?
The biggest differences are the schedules.. We practice 2-3 times a week, and the season is nearly 5 months long, even though we only play 10 regular season games. So, there a lot of bye weeks in between games.
How have you personally helped your teammates and coaches develop their American Football knowledge during your time abroad?
I try and help individuals with technique and the mental part of the game as much as I can. Us Imports also coach the Junior and Flag teams, who practice twice a week. We help put together individual and team drills, and try to instill the American way of playing, practicing, and approaching American Football as much as possible.
What are your plans after the season concludes?
I plan on staying in shape and preparing like I am going to continue to play more football after this season; however, if the opportunity to play doesn’t present itself, I am going to join the police academy back in California and hopefully start a career as Police Officer.
LAST WORDS OF ADVICE
What advice would you give to someone playing football in Europe/overseas for the first time?
Travel, slow life down, and enjoy your time in a different country. Work hard and help guys who don’t know as much as you do learn the game and the meaning of American Football.
Can you sum up what American Football means to you?
American Football has done more for me and taught me more than anything else, aside from my parents, in this world. It took me to college, helped me graduate, taught me respect and integrity, and brought me family forever.