Mr. Top Shelf: Curtis Slater Talks Football Business in Finland

American Football is now an international sport, being played in over 90 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. Helsinki Roosters (Finland) American import, Curtis Slater, allowed me a detailed interview about his experience in Finland.

Curtis Slater is a 27 year old defensive back born in Japan and raised in Houston, Texas. Photo Credit: Salla Lahti

THE BASICS

How many years have you played in Europe/overseas?

This will be my 4th season overseas.

 

Which team was your best experience?

I would have to say this season with the Helsinki Roosters because I finally was able to win a championship out here.

 

Which country was your best experience?

Finland has been good to me. I have really enjoyed my time here and I plan on continuing this experience for some time, or until my time is up.

 

MAKING A NAME  

I started this European journey after my senior year in college. I actually had a conversation with a good friend and teammate who played in Italy, he told me about the opportunity to play professional ball outside of the states which caught my attention. I Started out in the GFL 1 with the opportunity of being introduced to Mic brown through europlayers. Now I have made my way to the Maple League, and with continued success, I have had season after season playing in Europe and making a name for myself.

Slater played college football at West Texas A&M. Photo Credit: Jarmo Vehkomäki

How do you like it in Finland?
Finnish people are a little different , I have a strong belief that the weather has a major play in altering the moods of the people in Finland. None the less the Finnish people have been very welcoming and friendly since I have been out here, which is a blessing since I mean who really wants to deal with trouble in a foreign country.

What is your go to meal in Finland?
The quest to find my go to meal is still a mystery, I have not yet found my Finnish traditional meal yet.. (Any Suggestions?)

Do you spend a lot of time with Finnish teammates or on your own/with other imports?
As a team we try to do as much as possible whenever the weather permits it. Building a relationship outside of football is something I believe helps with the chemistry on and off the field. Getting to know the guys beyond football and experiencing their culture is something different. Especially with the youth kids within the Rooster organization. Helping them grow and become better athletes, moving up in age groups to hopefully play for the men’s team and make an impact. Building friendships as a mentor and teammate is an amazing feeling.

FOOTBALL IN FINLAND

What level would you compare the football played in Finland to in the United States?
I would compare some of the top teams to Division3 of Division 2 programs, especially after seeing some teams come to Europe and have problems and take losses.

What do you see as some of the biggest differences between football in the states compared to Europe/ Finland?
I would have to say some of the differences are practice schedules. Having practice 3 maybe 4 times a week, unlike in the states where we practice 4-6 times a week. Depending on the team’s size and fan base, the promotional sense is a little different but not too far behind. The recruiting is somewhat similar in the sense that American players have a job, and if they do not fulfill their responsibilities, the team will send you home and bring another guy to replace you. The Finnish guys are heavily watched by the national team out here and do a good job getting guys noticed and represented on top teams in Finland.

Slater represented the United States as a World Champion in the 2015 IFAF World Cup.

How have you personally helped your teammates and coaches develop their American Football knowledge during your time abroad?
Individually I believe that there is always room for improvement. Working on my craft and focusing on being mentally prepared is something I place high value on. Helping the guys get a different aspect of the game I feel is a plus for them Mentally and physically, which in sense makes them a better player on and off the field. Also, I know that some teams will not come my way so being patient for when an opportunity presents itself and preparing my guys to take advantage of the opportunities they will be receiving is a big key for how we will perform as a team. I know that the preparation is something that will help them endure and overcome anything they face in this league.

LAST WORDS

What are your plans after the season concludes?
I plan to stay involved with the organization. Working with the different age groups on drills, conditioning, and knowledge of the game. Getting those guys ready for their future, whether they decide to try and play in the states or for a different league within Europe is something I’m really looking forward to persuing.

Curtis Slater played for the Marburg Mercenaries and Hamburg Huskies in Germany before joining the Helsinki Roosters in Finland. Photo Credit: FSC Media

Could you tell me an interesting story of your experience?
An interesting story would have to be the opportunity I was presented with my second year in Europe. Being invited to play for Team USA, winning a roster spot, and being able to take home the world championship fighting against some great national teams from all over the world.

What advice would you give to someone playing football in Europe/overseas for the first time?
Come to play; come focused, be prepared, and bring the knowledge you have gained throughout the years playing football to help better and build the teams you will be playing for. Those are just some keys I have followed to stay successful in my career in Europe as well as having a positive attitude towards the opportunity and building from it.

Can you sum up what American Football means to you?
When it comes to American football with me three things come to mind; Brotherhood, endure/overcome, and attitude.

TOPSHELF


Curtis Slater is very active on social media and definitely worth following!

Instagram: @topshelfiskey

Snapchat: @teamtopshelf

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