AFI’s All-Pandemic Team: LB – William James, Helsinki Wolverines, Uppsala 86ers

No one ever claimed that picking a team of all stars from the teams who played during the pandemic would be easy. With so many great linebackers it was all that more difficult but the name of Helsinki Wolverines linebacker William James kept coming back to the AFI All-Pandemic selection committee.

Although more of a hybrid who plays a rover and has played safety for other teams, James just kept making plays for the Wolverines, helping them reach the Finnish final, the Maple Bowl. He also managed to play one game for the Uppsala 86ers in Sweden’s Superserien playoffs.

He was the second leading tackler in Finland’s Maple League during the regular season with 29.5 tackles in his four games. James then recorded 16.5 tackles in the semifinal game and the championship.

According to one opposing offensive coordinator in the Maple League, James was one of only two defensive players in Finland he had to scheme for:

“We had to know where he was on the field and literally send plays away from him.”

The 28 year old, 5’11”, 195 pound native of Sweden, was the sole selection from the CFL Swedish Global Combine held in Stockholm earlier this year after actually spending last year playing rugby in Australia. From 2016 to 2018, he was a mainstay in the defensive secondary for the Dresden Monarchs in the German Football League, amassing a total of 313 tackles over three seasons. He graduated from the University of North Dakota, where he had a scholarship for the last two years, playing safety for the Fighting Hawks finishing with 103 tackles.

Helsinki Wolverines head coach Michael Mattingly:

“Will is an elite talent. His ability to play multiple positions on defense including being in the return game makes him a very special player. He also has a very high football IQ and is a true student of the game. There aren’t many players like him so I understand why he’s on this list.”

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