AFI’s All-Europe Team: Offensive Line – Yasir Raji, Potsdam Royals

When it came to selections for AFI’s All-Europe team, no position group proved to be a more complex debate than offensive line. The depth of talent in the trenches across the continent, as well as the lack of hard statistic at the position, required a more in-depth tape study and ultimately the decision was made to choose the five best offensive linemen at large rather than to strictly adhere to position.

Still, there remained a desire among voters to see a player from every position represented. In Yasir Raji, we found a solution: an offensive lineman who played and excelled at just about every spot on offense.

And yes, we do mean that literally.

The Potsdam Royals moved the 6’2″, 270-pound German around like a chess piece en route to the German Football League semi-finals, placing him wherever the key block was needed on a given play. Primarily a right tackle, he was lined up on either side, at guard, as an in-line tight end or an off-the-line H-back and was even stuck in the backfield at fullback when the moment called for it. Perhaps no blocker in Europe was more essential to his team’s scheme and he shouldered that responsibility by routinely driving defenders ten or more yards downfield.

The end results speak for themselves, as Potsdam produced the GFL’s most potent rushing offense with 2,660 yards and 31 touchdowns through 12 games. The next closest team, the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns, mustered 556 fewer yards despite playing one more contest.

The focal point of that ground attack was GFL rushing leader Jake Mayon, who posted 1,747 yards and 21 scores on 231 carries and had nothing but praise for Raji’s role in that success.

“Yasir is the definition of a team player. He is strong, physical, and will do whatever he has to do to make a play for his team. I could count on him at all times,” Mayon said. “He would block whoever was in front of him on one play and on the next play run thirty yards for a touchdown — which is something that he really has done. A great person and a great player.”

It’s true, Raji really did scamper 27 yards to paydirt on a TE end around against the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes, a testament to his remarkable athleticism.

When you make plays like that, there will always be a spot for you on the All-Europe team.

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.