Canadian junior player Victor St. Pierre-Laviolette flying high in Sweden

Canadian running back Victor St.Pierre-Laviolette heads into the playoffs  this weekend in his first season in Europe playing for Sweden’s Uppsala 86ers.  It has been quite a season for the native of Brandon, Manitoba. He topped  all rushers in the six team Swedish Superserien. Kind of where he left off in 2016, playing for the Regina Thunder in the Prairie Football Conference of the Canadian Junior Football League where he led the rushing stats.

While at 20 years old, the 5’9″, 180 lb La Violette, had fully intended to spend the 2017 season with the Thunder, he never expected to find himself spending the first six months of the year playing football in Europe. And winning another rushing title on a playoff bound team.

“I only got the message through Mark Maren a couple of weeks before Uppsala’s started training camp in March. Everything happened so fast and suddenly I was on my way to Sweden.”

Victor St. Pierre-Laviolette in action against the Winnipeg Rifles

The move was made easier by a special work visa offered only for Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, South Koreans and Chileans. Called a  “Working Holiday Visa for Young People”, it enables 18 to 30 year olds  from those countries to get a 12 month work permit  in Sweden and it considerably reduces the cost for teams.

Martin Söderberg, President of the 86ers: 

“We have had players here before on that same visa. Victor is one of the best import players Uppsala has ever had. Apart from his football playing where he is so exciting to watch, he has been great off the field as well.”

La-Violette, who won the rushing title for the Thunder in 2016 with 1,073 yards, has put up impressive numbers this season and made an impact almost as soon as he arrived. He finished the year with a league-leading 761 rushing yards, averaging six yards a carry.

The 86ers head into the Swedish semifinals this weekend against the seven-time and defending champion Carlstad Crusaders, a team they faced in the Swedish final last year. This year they have struggled against the top defense in Sweden. However with La Violette in the backfield, the coaching staff always feel they have a chance.

Darwin Paris Salaam II, offensive coordinator for Uppsala:

“There’s so much I can say about VSP (what I really call him). He’s shifty, explosive, fast, and strong. The only time I’ve seen one person tackle him is after he shakes two of his teammates. VSP will be a great back for a long time, he works hard and I hope to be his coach again! We are very fortunate to have him…. I mean he’s exclusive! League Leading rusher on two continents… that’s major!”

Victor St. Pierre-Laviolette battles against Finland’s Helsinki Roosters

American Football International caught up with Victor as he prepares for the playoffs.

American Football International: What is your background in football from Canada?

Victor St. Pierre-Laviolette:  I played four years of high school football in Brandon and then with the Winnipeg Rifles [Canadian Junior] for a year and now I’ve been in Regina for two years.

AFI: How did you find out about playing in Europe and for Uppsala?

VSP: Mark Maren had messaged me about it. I didn’t even know there was football in Europe before that. haha

AFI: Was it easy to adjust to living in Sweden?

VSP: Yeah I mean easy enough I knew it wasn’t going to be forever and I’d already been living on my own for two years so it was pretty easy adjusting.

AFI: How did you find playing football full time?

VSP: I liked it a lot. I really wish it was something I could continue doing full time in the future and I hope to.

AFI: What have you been doing in your spare time?

VSP: I’ve been helping out with some U17 practices for the 86ers and just spending time with all the new people I’ve met down here.

AFI: How would you compare the football between Sweden and Canada?

VSP: Its obviously different with it being American football and all but my mindset for the game never changes no matter where I am at so i would say it’s been a pretty smooth transition.

AFI: Have you found a favorite food in Sweden?

VSP: I would have to say Swedish pizza haha.

AFI: Would you recommend playing abroad to other Canadian players?

VSP: Yes i definitely. It’s a great way to travel the world and play the sport you love especially if you have no years of eligibility for CIS or junior football.

La Violette heads back to Canada as soon as Uppsala’s season is over. The Saskatchewan Roughriders are waiting for him. He practiced with the Canadian Football League team last year and will continue to do so in 2017 while also playing for the Thunder. Thunder training camp starts August 1. Needless to say, he will be ready for camp.

 

Roger Kelly
Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.
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