COLUMN: GFL not just a Vikings connection

The German Football League was brought into a national spotlight here in America last Saturday during the NFL Draft. German-born Moritz Boehringer became the first player drafted straight to the NFL from Europe when the Minnesota Vikings selected him in the sixth round of the draft.

Many questions have been asked about the GFL since the draft, both by Minnesota’s local media and nationally.

I went directly to a source with first-hand knowledge, corresponding via email with former Southwest Minnesota State football player Andrew McReynolds. McReynolds is in his first season with the Hildesheim Invaders of the GFL.

We spoke about life in the GFL, the excitement surrounding Boehringer, his adjustment going from SMSU to the GFL and what he wants to get out of the experience.

Josh VanKlompenburg: First off, tell me a little bit about the landscape of the GFL. What’s the level of competition like? How are the team facilities? How much fan support is there for your team and the league as a whole?

Andrew McReynolds: The competition is great in the GFL first division, very much similar to Division II or Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level of competition in the states. Facilities may not be as much considering the number one sport in Germany is soccer, but we have what we need to get work done — a practice field, a stadium and a training facility. Our team is actually the only team in Germany whose town voted as the number one favorite team in town over the local soccer team. As for the rest of the GFL, fandom is rising every year, giving us around three to four thousand in attendance at most games.

JV: How does your game and practice schedule compare to what it was at SMSU?

AM: The game schedule is way more intense at 15 games in the season, but practice-wise we only get three a week on top of the game. It makes it a little lighter amount-wise, but we work longer at around three hours for every practice.

JV: Is the league filled with mostly German-born players? How many other Americans are in the league or on your team?

AM: The league’s base is German-born, but many imports from around Europe and other countries also make up the teams.  The Americans in the league are kind of like a band of brothers until you meet on game day, and most teams have around three or four americans. My team is lucky enough to carry depth and has six Americans this year.

JV: How much have you heard about Moritz Boehringer? Is the name extremely well-known like top players in American leagues are known? What is the level of excitement in Germany around the league after he was drafted?

AM: Moritz is nationwide since his combine in the states. The level of excitement is great as many Germans as well as players are seeing that it is becoming more and more possible to gain a shot at the NFL through the GFL-1.

JV: How have you adjusted to life over in Germany? Do you have any family/friends with you to ease the transition?

AM: The transition has been pretty smooth, having five other Americans on my team as well as an American head coach. We get taken care of. The hardest part would be not having family or my girlfriend out here with me. Living in a new world and not having a familiar face can be difficult at times.

JV: How did your time at SMSU prepare you for this experience, both on and off the football field?

AM: My time at SMSU helped me a lot. Being from Denver, I had to make a move similar to this one when I went to college. This is the same, only halfway around the globe.  On the field, my experience is really showing, both playing and coaching the youth team in Hildesheim.

JV: How long do you want to continue to play for? What do you hope to get out of the experience?

AM: I hope to play this game as long as my body and abilities allow me to compete at a high level. I would love to get some good professional film to show scouts back home and gain a shot at the next level, whether that be in the CFL or NFL. Just having an opportunity to gain more exposure through professional football while traveling Germany and other parts of Europe is a blessing, and I am extremely thankful for the opportunity the Hildesheim Invaders have presented me.

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