Sweden’s Carlstad Crusaders sign OL Ben Eli from Saint John’s University

The Swedish defending and seven-time champions, the Carlstad Crusaders, have added some size to an already tough offensive line with the addition of Ben Eli from Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota (NCAA Div. III).

Eli, (6’4″, 295 lb) 23, and a native of Albany, Minnesota, was an American Football Coaches’ Association All-America first-team selection this fall. Eli anchored a line for an offense that averaged 425.3 yards per game, including 211.2 yards on the ground. He transitioned from the defensive line to center in late August 2014 and started the last 35 games there.

Eli and the Johnnies averaged over 200 yards rushing per game in three consecutive seasons for the first time since the early, quadruple-option seasons of 1975-77. He was also named to the D3football.com All-West Region second-team and was an All-MIAC first-team selection in 2016.

Eli graduated in December with a degree in economics.

The Carlstad Crusaders have won the past seven Swedish titles and are considered one of Europe’s elite teams. In 2015, the team won not only the Swedish title but also the European Champions League crown.

American Football International caught up with Ben as he prepares to head to Sweden in early March.

American Football International: Can you tell us how you came to sign with Carlstad?

Ben Eli: The team found out about me, I liked the organization, and after some talking they offered me a spot on the team.

AFI: What did you know about American football in Sweden? or outside the U.S.?

Eli: It is the same game basically. Guys can’t play for their university or high school like they can in the U.S., so they play for teams like the Crusaders at different levels. The women’s game is also more developed than in the U.S.

AFI: What are you looking forward to most about playing in Sweden?

Eli: Getting to meet new people and visit new places.

AFI: Do you have any expectations? And goals for 2017?

Eli: To win every game we play and for me to play to the best of my ability every game.

AFI: What do you think you bring to the football field for a team like the Crusaders?

Eli: I have a good attitude and work ethic. I bring decent size and athleticism to the offensive line.

Photo: Tommy O’Laughlin

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