Italy’s Milano Seamen Sign QB Luke Zahradka

The Milano Seamen have signed veteran quarterback Luke Zahradka for the 2017 Italian and Big6 seasons. Zahradka spent the 2016 season with the Prague Black Panthers in the Austrian Football League.

Zahradka, 24, (197 cm, 106 kg) hails from New York and attended Bentley University (NCAA Div. II). He has spent the past four seasons in Europe, first with the Kirchdorf Wildcats (Germany), and then a year in France with Amiens Spartiates.  In 2015, he led the Ancona Dolphins to a 9-0-1 regular season record.

AFI: Tell us about your career in Europe

Zahradka: I started my career overseas shortly after graduating college in July of 2013 by signing with the Kirchdorf Wildcats, a team located in the Bavarian region of southern Germany. I’m thankful to them for giving me a chance to continue playing the sport I love.

For the 2014 season I played in France an hour north of Paris with the Amiens Spartiates. Our team had a really successful season going 9-0-1 winning the North before losing to the AIX en Provence Argonauts in the finals.

The following year (2015,) I played in Italy for the Ancona Dolphins. After finishing the season 8-2, I obtained my Italian citizenship which allowed me to be eligible to play with the Italian National Team. After the season finished I came back to coach the junior team and also got the chance to play in a friendly game for the national team as well as attend multiple camps for the team.

And for this past year, I was fortunate to have more success here in Europe. During the year I played with the Prague Black Panthers in one of Europe’s top league, the AFL. Our team faced a lot of adversity and things never seemed to go out way but our guys constantly. While playing here I was able to be a part of a championship team for the Czech League. After the season I went to Italy because we had Group B European championship in September for the Italian National Team. We won the tournament and now have the chance to make it into the A Group for 2018.

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Luke spent the 2015 season leading the Ancona Dolphins to a 9-0-1 record.

AFI: What are your thoughts on your career in Europe so far?

Zahradka: I have had the time of my life these past four years and couldn’t be more thankful to these different clubs who have allowed me to represent their team. They have all treated me with the utmost respect and I thank them for that. I’m looking forward to seeing what the future and Milan has in store for me!

AFI: How did you come to sign with the Seamen? And why the Seamen?

Zahradka: I have been in contact with the Seamen in the past weeks and had some great talks with the people from their organization as well as the Coaches. They really had a strong vision for this upcoming year and I wanted to be a part of it.

I chose the Seamen because having the opportunity to play for such a well known organization that has been dominant in the IFL the past few years helped make the decision that much easier. I also feel that the opportunities that will come from living in Milan beyond football will benefit me in the future as well.

AFI: Why did you decide to return to Italy in 2017?

Zahradka: The decision to return to Italy for me was quite a tough one. I had been drawing interest from multiple German teams in the GFL for the upcoming season and was considering playing there. Then I found out that if I had went and played in the GFL, I would have to give up playing for the national team due to the schedule conflict with games.

Over the past 2 years I’ve been a part of Italy’s Blue Team and have been built such a good relationship and friendships with the other players and coaches from the team that I felt I couldn’t leave them hanging and bail on them this year, especially since we have a big game to play against Denmark in order to qualify to play in the European Championship in 2018.

By playing in Italy, I would be able to do both, play the IFL season and be a part of the national team. Italy just feels like a second home to me and having relatives there who I visit often makes it that much better. Besides, who doesn’t enjoy some good pizza, coffee and gelato?

AFI: What are your goals for the 2017 season?

Zahradka: My goals for the 2017 season would be to bring the IFL championship back to the Seamen organization as well as helping the team win the Big6 championship. In order to accomplish this feat though, as a team, we need to remain focused and take it game by game. Film study, hard work, commitment, and lots of on and off field preparation is what it will take in order to get this done. I hope to lead the most explosive offense in the IFL and be the team that scores the most points per game.

AFI: What can you bring to the Seamen to lead them to an Italian and IFAF Europe titles

Zahradka: I believe that I can bring good leadership qualities to the team along with my experience. This being my 4th full season and 5th time playing in Europe, I know what it takes to be a good import who leads by example. Whether it be making coaching pointers at practice, or breaking down film for upcoming opponents, I will make sure that our team is prepared well enough to go out and win each snap.

Also, by being one of the guys on the team who other players look up, it is a big responsibility that you never let your guys down.

After having talked with the other imports Paul Morant and Reece Horn about our expectations for the upcoming season, I think it’s safe to say that the Milano Seamen are ready to make some noise this year in IFL as well as the Big6 Championship!

John McKeon
John McKeon is a former professional and collegiate American Football player and coach now living and working in New York. His goal is to spread news, information, and opinion on the global growth of the sport he loves.
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