Austria: Prague Black Panthers WR Ben von Jagow preparing for playoff tilt against Vienna

Although the Prague Black Panthers finished second in the nine team Austrian Football League, they are by no means the favorites when they prepare to face the third place Dacia Vienna Vikings this weekend. Of the two games they lost in 2022 during the regular season, one was a 21-0 shutout at the hands of the Vikings.

On top of that, Prague has never beaten the Vikings

So, for Ben von Jagow, the Canadian wide receiver who is in his sixth year playing in Europe and his first with the Black Panthers, the game takes on a new meaning.

We caught up with the wideout to ask him about his mindset going into the game, his journey to this point, and where his career is headed. 

von Jagow is preparing to face Vienna this Saturday in a playoff game that will send the winner to Austrian Bowl XXXVII. If the Black Panthers are able to come out on top, it would be the Austrian club’s first ever win against the Vikings. Despite Vienna’s domination in their head-to-head matchups in the past, the veteran Canadian believes Prague will be playing with a chip on their shoulder. 

Prague Black Panthers WR Ben von Jagow in discussion with teammates on sideline Photo: David Hofman

When asked about their last loss to Vienna in which they were shut out, he was philosophical:

“That initial loss was tough, but it was also necessary for us to progress as a team. After the game, I remember Coach Breitzman telling us to take a moment to tune in to how we were feeling. He reminded us that we’d be seeing the Vienna Vikings again, and lo and behold, here we are, hungry for the opportunity to right a wrong.” 

Von Jagow knows his dynamic abilities as a receiver give him the opportunity to have a large impact on this game, but Vienna is also well aware of the AFL standout’s talent. He says he isn’t worried about Vienna’s game-plan, but rather focused on his team playing together.

“I’m looking forward to going out and competing, but I know – and Vienna knows – that we’ve got a roster full of weapons. Our game plan isn’t predicated on any one guy or group. Our goal is the same as it’s been all season: to go out and execute as a team. If we can do that, we’ll find success.” 

This formula has been working recently as the Black Panthers have found themselves on a three-game win streak heading into this contest. Despite the team seeming to be hitting their stride, von Jagow says that their focus isn’t on momentum but rather on accomplishing their ultimate goal of playing in the Austrian Bowl.

Although the win streak helps, he says the team needs to stay focused:

“It’s certainly a nice statistic, but right now our focus lies on the upcoming game. We’re not too concerned with the previous three, or the one that’s to follow. As soon as the Rangers game ended, we shifted our attention towards the Vikings, and it’s been there ever since.”

Photo: Jirim Exler

While von Jagow certainly seems unfazed in preparations for the upcoming game, he hasn’t always been the calm and collected player he is today. The Canadian has played in six different countries and leagues since deciding to join European football and believes that each place he’s played has offered him an unparalleled experience.

“Each country offers its own unique adventures and challenges. Same goes for the team. But there are also countless similarities, ones that seem to span borders.”

He goes on to recall the myriad of quality teammates that he’s had the honor of playing alongside of and who he’ll remain friends with for the rest of his life. 

He also detailed the varying levels of competition he’s faced throughout his career.

“The level of play fluctuates from country to country, from league to league, but good players seem to be a constant. I’ve suited up with, and against, ballers from all over.”

In addition to noticing all the changes that have surrounded him during his career, von Jagow was asked to reflect on how he’s changed as a player since entering European football. 

He says that since the moment his career in Europe began, his identity as a player has been in a constant state of metamorphosis.

“I see a huge difference between the player I am now and the player I was when I first stepped foot on the continent. I’ve met plenty of great people – too many to count – and have been blessed with some valuable lessons. Growth-wise, I think the majority of it has taken place between the ears, which has really transformed me as a player and as a person.” 

von Jagow fighting for yardage playing for the Stockholm Mean Machines in Sweden’s Superserien. Photo: Stefan Akander

There’s no doubt von Jagow is laser-focused on sending the Vikings home this weekend, but he is also keeping his long-term career goals in mind. And it’s pretty clear that in terms of European football, he hopes to continue playing.

“I’m asked this question every year, and every year, I give a variation of the same answer: As many as life will indulge. The truth is, I feel like I’m still progressing as a player, and I’d like to find out where my ceiling’s at. I love this game, and I love this lifestyle, and so long as those two points remain constant, I’ll keep playing. I’d love the chance to experience France, or maybe the ELF. At the end of the day, I want to be able to step away from this game knowing I made the most of my experience.  I want to say that I made plays, was a good teammate, and left it all out on the field.”

Make sure to tune in to what’s sure to be a thrilling AFL playoff showdown this Saturday and watch Ben von Jagow and the Black Panthers try to avenge their troubled history against the Vienna Vikings.

Watch the game live. Dacia Vienna Vikings @ Prague Black Panthers, Saturday, July 16, 15:00 CET (3 pm, 09:00 am ET)

Will is a student at the University of Michigan where he is pursuing his Bachelor of Arts degree in Sport Management. He also has experience in professional scouting and hopes to pursue this field after graduation.