Austria’s Bernhard Raimann: College football’s next European “Blindside Protector”

Quarterbacks need blindside protection, and that calls for big, fast, athletic guys. They can come from anywhere in world just as long as they are big, smart, strong, and athletic.

It looks like the Central Michigan Chippewas (NCAA Div. I, FBS) found one hidden in Vienna, Austria.

Starting at left tackle for the Chippewas this past college season was  6’7″, 290 pound behemoth Bernard Raimann.

He didn’t start that way though.

When he started playing football at the age of 14, playing for the Vienna Vikings program, one of the finest in Europe, he was a receiver. Playing for both the Vikings and the Austrian U-19 team, he excelled thanks to his tall, lanky frame and excellent hands. He was yearning for more though so in 2015 he flew out to America’s heartland to a small high school outside of Detroit, Michigan, joining the Delton Kellogg High Panthers on a year-long exchange program.

Bernhard Raimann started out playing receiver for the Vienna Vikings Photo: Holly Kellner

Once on the field, Raimann began making his mark, not only because of his 6’7 frame or his accent. He could play. The tall receiver was a key part of a Panthers offense that ran the triple option. Playing tight end and wide receiver, he showed off his fantastic hands while delivering crushing blocks to help his team in the run game. The Austrian’s play was key as the Panthers made a historic playoff run in the state of Michigan.

“I played for a tiny school in Michigan, we probably had less than 400 kids in the entire high school. During this season we actually made it to the playoffs for the first time in like 10 years or so.”

After attending camps and showing off his skills and athleticism in Michigan, doing everything he could to catch the eye of college scouts, Raimann was offered a scholarship by a number of schools including Central Michigan.

“During that year I played high school football, traveled to play 7on7 football, and went to every camp that Central Michigan University offered.”

The transition to college football was not easy. Adjusting to the speed and size of the NCAA can be challenge for any incoming freshman. The same rang true for Raimann. Coming from a European program, and then a small high school team in Michigan, the challenge was difficult at first.

“It was definitely a shock at first. The level of athleticism and competitiveness was something I was not used to. Even though the Vikings coaching staff is one of the best in all of Europe, it is hard to prepare someone for a transition like from a club league to the NCAA.”

Despite some football culture shock, Raimann found ways to add value to the Chippewas squad as a tight end, catching 20 passes for 154 yards in his first 26 games with seven starts. But it was after his sophomore year that his football career would make the most dramatic change. After a meeting with his coaches, he was assigned a new position, on the offensive line. The big man embraced that challenge, gaining 50 pounds between 2019 and 2020 to get ready for the challenge.

“It was fun. Even though it was difficult at first, I had some great coaches and players helping me out with technique, terminology, and other OL stuff.”

Bernhard Raimann’s college career at Central Michigan started as a TE Photo: Allissa Rusco

In the midst of 2020, during a pandemic, position change, and extremely odd season of college football, Raimann demonstrated astounding perseverance and athleticism, transitioning flawlessly to the offensive line. The former receiver started every game at left tackle for the Chippewas and earned All-Conference honors from Profootball Focus and Phil Steele.

Raimann was not daunted by the transition to the trenches:

“I definitely embraced the process and every day seemed like a new challenge waiting to get accomplished. What I like most about the transition to OL is the physicality of the position. Most of the time, there’s no one to help you out. It’s you vs. the guy across from you. It’s a battle every single rep and the man who is prepared better usually wins.”

Playing in 2020 wasn’t an easy experience. Raimann sacrificed a lot to help his football team. All in all, he is thankful for the opportunity he had to play.

“Even though our season got delayed by a few weeks, we actually got to play a shortened 6-game season.  It was a crazy experience. We ended up getting covid tested up to 6 times a week, we had to wear masks or face shields around our face masks at all times, and most of our meetings were held virtually. But overall, I was just happy to even get the chance to play the sport I love. “

With two more years of eligibility, look for Raimann to improve as an offensive lineman and chase his ultimate goal of  making an NFL roster. The former Vienna Viking would be following in the footsteps of former European offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer (Germany) and Hjalte Froholdt (Denmark) both of whom played for the New England Patriots.

Raimann is pretty clear about his future goals

“The NFL. I want to compete on the highest level. I want to push myself to become the best football I possibly can.”

Alex Malchow
Alex is a former professional American football player who is now studying in London. His goal writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and players and sharing different football stories from across the globe.
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