AFI’s All-Europe Team: Defensive Interior – Aslan Zetterberg, Leipzig Kings

Those that ply their trade on the interior of the defensive line do so with the implicit understanding that their moments to grab the spotlight will be few and far between. Instead they will eat up space and plug gaps, doing the dirty work necessary to free up other players for success.

When you have a skillset like Aslan Zetterberg however, it’s hard not to get noticed yourself.

Checking in at a robust 6’2 and 285 pounds, the 24-year-old Swede did plenty of work to draw attention away from the ELF’s Defensive MVP and sack leader Kyle Kitchens, but he proved to be just as dangerous to quarterbacks in his own right. Fighting through double teams in the middle, Zetterberg notched 10 sacks in 10 games, good enough for third in the ELF and the highest rate of production by a defensive tackle anywhere in Europe.

For Leipzig Kings’ head coach Fred Armstrong, who has been around some of the very best as a coach in the NFL, Zetterberg’s dominance can be boiled down to just a few key factors.

“He’s competitive. Has the best feet in the business and incredible hand technique. A real team-first football player,” Armstrong says. “Him putting pressure on the quarterback with sacks and hits helped us to be number one in the league in pass defense.”

Such is the impact of a game-wrecker in the middle like Zetterberg and his reputation is only growing. A college-aged prospect who returned home to Sweden after a one-year stint at Lake Erie College, he’s blossomed into a legitimate blue chip European, first with the Carlstad Crusaders and then with Leipzig.

His performance this season earned him an invitation to the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program combine in London and the path forward for Zetterberg could be on the other side of the Atlantic, but if he stays on the continent, this All-Europe selection is unlikely to be his last.

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.