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 Marburg Mercenaries (Germany) American import, Robert Johnson, allowed me a detailed interview about his experience in Europe.
Where have you played previously?
I’ve previously played in the FXFL for the Florida Blacktips in the year 2015, 2016 had two private workouts with the Dallas Cowboys & Arizona Cardinals with the company of Dak Prescott also played arena in the Indoor Football League (IFL) for the Nebraska Danger.
How did you get here? What’s your football journey?
After dealing with numerous workouts with Canadian teams, playing arena for a spring and playing in a developmental league in New York my big issue was I was searching for stability. I ended up creating a page on Europlayers after conversing with an agent and doing numerous research on my own and with the help of my mother as well I decided I sign to play in the GFL.
LIFE IN GERMANY
How do you like it in Germany?
From arriving in Frankfurt on March 24th it was a bit of a culture shock with the everyday life out here in Deutschland. I love how peaceful it is here in this country, the beer is key here and so are the holidays. People here are very helpful, they are always lending a hand to go out there way to make someone else that they don’t even know happy.
What is your go to meal in Germany?
My go to meal here in Germany has to be a Lamacun but we barbecue a lot as well.
Do you spend a lot of time with German teammates or on your own/with other imports?
I tend to hangout with a lot of my teammates especially on weekends. The majority work through the week so it’s hard to catch up with most, but when we do get together we have a great time whether it’s going out of town or marching through the city attending local events. Dealing with three imports, we all stay and stick together so we’re always making adventures and memories that will last a lifetime.
FOOTBALL IN GERMANY
What level would you compare the football played in Germany to in the United States
The level I compare it to since being out here with some teams just dealing with the environment, some of the stadiums, and games I’ve played some can relate to high school. But with playing some of them top teams in Germany that have a winning tradition I can compare it to d2 or Junior college football.
What do you see as some of the biggest differences between football in the states compared to Europe/ Germany?
Some of the biggest differences I see is the lack of knowledge being taught to the Germans. They are being taught what to do depending on the position they are playing, but no one is telling them when and why they are doing it so it. With Germany not having high school football, it’s hard for German athletes to get looks from colleges for an opportunity to play in the states. Everything is basically the same when it comes to recruiting, it goes both ways in both countries, but some of the practice schedules lack dealing with individual work and special teams being a forgotten part of the game. The basics need to be taught first and everything will follow up by itself.
How have you personally helped your teammates and coaches develop their American Football knowledge during your time abroad?
All the imports, including myself, have helped our Germans if it’s being a mentor to a young first timer or taking a whole day and putting them through a variety of drills to make them a better player. We even took strides into teaching the youth team.
What are your plans after the season concludes?
After the season I will evaluate everything sit with my coaches and see what American football has in store for me.
In one sentence, can you sum up what American Football means to you?
American Football means an opportunity of a lifetime if you ask me.