American Football is now an international sport, being played in over 85 countries around the globe. In different countries, 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 Munich Cowboys (Germany) American import, Ben Wilkerson, allowed me a detailed interview about his experiences in Europe.
How many years have you played in Europe/overseas?
Two years in Germany
Which team was your best experience?
I had great experiences in both my years playing in Europe. My first season playing in Rothenburg (Germany) will always be special. The small medieval town was beautiful. This year playing in the capital of Bavaria (Germany) is awesome. Big city with many different things to do outside of football is also wonderful.
How did you get to Germany?
Before the start of my senior season in college, my coach Dan Levy introduced me to the idea of playing in Europe after college. I created a europlayers.com account and started talking to teams. The Franken Knights seemed to be a great opportunity so I signed with them.
LIFE IN GERMANY
How do you like it in Germany?
I love Germany. The German culture is different in some ways then American but I never felt uncomfortable here. I personally like most Germans. The biggest difference with Germans is that they are always 100% straight forward with you and that they are never late when set a time to be somewhere.
What is your go to meal in Germany?
Schnitzel mit pommes!! (Fried and breaded meat with fries)
Do you spend a lot of time with German teammates or on your own/with other imports?
I spend as much time with German teammates as possible. Us Americans live together in the same apartment so we are basically always together. The Germans have jobs, school, families, etc that takes up a lot of their time. Whenever they are free we try to get together and do stuff on and off the field.
FOOTBALL IN GERMANY
What level would you compare the football played in Germany to in the United States?
I would compare GFL 1 to NCAA Division II football in the states.
What do you see as some of the biggest differences between football in the states compared to Europe/ Germany?
Biggest difference from football here is practice time. In high school and college practice was everyday along with weight training, team/position meetings, study hall, etc. In Germany because of most of my teammates work schedule we can only practice 2-3 times a week.
How have you personally helped your teammates and coaches develop their American Football knowledge during your time abroad?
this season with the Munich Cowboys I was able to work with an American HC and OC so it really helped me a lot with development of our German talent. I personally take time outside of practice with all teammates that are willing, to give them all my knowledge and tips to help them play fast, smart, and aggressive.
What are your plans after the season concludes?
My plans after the season are to travel some around Germany and Europe before I leave. When I get back to the states I plan to coach for the reminder of the HS/College season. Then prepare for my next season harder then I have ever before.
Could you tell me an interesting story of your experience?
The most interesting experience for me has to be the amount to beer that is connected to football in Germany. Win, lose, or draw after games here are ended with a few beers and some team bonding.
What advice would you give to someone playing football in Europe/overseas for the first time?
The best advice I can give to a first year player is to come over with an open and willing mindset. Things will be different here, and to succeed you will have to have an open mindset. I think your passion to be great is tested playing here more than anywhere else because you have the most free time in your life and how you use it determines what kind of player you will be here.
Can you sum up what American Football means to you?
American Football is my obsession.