AFI’s All-Pandemic Team: Linebacker – AJ Wentland, Kuopio Steelers

When linebacker AJ Wentland signed with the Kuopio Steelers in Finland for the remainder of the COVID-19 shortened Maple League season, he joined an already impressive linebacking corps.

And made it even better.

He was an almost automatic choice by our AFI All-Pandemic Team panel.

After missing the first two games of the season, Wentland went on a tear, finishing with 23 tackles in three games along with 4.5 tackles for loss and a sack. In the playoffs and championship game he added another 13.5 tackles in helping lead his team to their first ever Finnish title.

Before arriving in Finland, Wentland has been the heart of the Dresden Monarchs defense in the German Football League for the past two seasons. As he did in 2018, he led the league from wire to wire last season, with 205 tackles averaging 13 a game.  He had 17 in Dresden’s 42-14 win over the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes early in the year and 16 in the Monarchs quarterfinal victory over the Marburg Mercenaries. His 205 tackles was one shy of his own record of 206 tackles in 2018.

The 6’3″, 225 lb native of Rockford, Illinois was a standout two-time All American  linebacker with the McKendree University Bearcats (NCAA, Division II) where he was also a three-time All GLVC (Great Lakes Valley Conference) linebacker. Over three years he amassed a total of 412 tackles including 145 in 11 games in his senior year, 2017. He also had two touchdowns, three interceptions and six forced fumbles.

Kuopio Steelers head coach Pekka Utriainen:

“AJ is one of the better leaders of men I have ever been associated with, as a player or coach or really any face of life. He made our whole team better every day in practice and was the final piece to our puzzle this past summer, having faced with all the difficulties caused by Covid-19.”

AFI
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