CFL legend Joe Paopao joins Barcelona Dragons as QB coach

Some more CFL flair is coming to the Iberian Peninsula.

Barcelona Dragons head coach Adam Rita has added legendary CFL player and coach Joe Paopao to the upstart European Football League team’s staff. Paopao, who became known as the “Throwin’ Samoan” over the course of his 11 year playing career, will serve as the club’s quarterbacks coach for the league’s inaugural 2021 season.

The 65 year old most recently served in the CFL as running back and quarterbacks coach with the Ottawa Redblacks in 2019.

The Dragons, who changed their name from the Gladiators earlier this week following an agreement with the NFL for NFL Europe trademarks, are one of eight teams in the ELF. Others include the Wroclaw Panthers of Poland, Berlin Thunder, Cologne Centurions, Frankfurt Galaxy, Leipzig Kings, Stuttgart Scorpions and Hamburg Sea Devils.

“Coming to Spain to coach American football with the Barcelona Dragons under the leadership of General Manager Bart Iaccarino is exciting. On a personal level, I am looking forward to working again with my dear friend Adam Rita, whose no stranger to building great programs from the ground up,” Paopao said ahead of the official announcement.

Paopao and Rita, who both hail from Hawaii, first worked together when Rita was the B.C. Lions offensive coordinator in 1983, Paopao’s final season playing for the team. The two would spend much of the next 27 years as opponents in the Canadian Football League, while Paopao also spent two seasons as the Lions’ offensive coordinator from 1999 to 2000 while Rita was general manager.

Needless to say, Rita is happy about his newest coach:

“I am super excited to have Joe Paopao on board, he brings loads of experience to our staff. I have had the pleasure to have coached Joe as a player and later we had the opportunity to coach together. Joe also brings a Polynesian spirit to our staff,” Rita said about the announcement.

“We have history together and our relationship is based on trust. Our guys will love playing for him as he brings out the best in people. He has a passion for the game and his guys. our offense will be exciting and fun because of him, his great imagination and gift for tying words with action. I’m looking forward to working with him again.”

A Long Beach State product, Paopao first came to Canada in 1978 and spent six years in B.C., three with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and one with the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1987 before retiring. He came out of retirement for one final season with the Lions in 1990, finishing his CFL career with 22,474 yards passing, 117 touchdowns and 157 interceptions. He was added to the B.C. Lions Wall of Fame in 2007.

Paopao began his coaching career with the Lions in 1989 as an offensive backs coach and was the first CFL position coach of legendary Heisman winning quarterback Doug Flutie, who he started in front of in 1990. Paopao eventually rose to the role of offensive coordinator 1992, a position he also held for the Edmonton Football Team, Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He served as head coach of the Lions in 1996 and was the inaugural head coach of the expansion Ottawa Renegades from 2002 to 2005.

Outside the CFL, Paopao was offensive coordinator for the XFL’s San Francisco Demons in 2001. He also served as playcaller for the University of Waterloo Warriors from 2007 to 2013 before becoming head coach for his last two seasons, as well as offensive coordinator for the Simon Fraser University Clan (NCAA Div. II) from 2015 to 2018.

The European League of Football is scheduled to start its debut season on June 20th, marketing itself as the first professional style American football on the continent since the fall of NFL Europe, from which many of its teams derive their names.

While the Dragons have not yet announced a quarterback for their inaugural campaign, Paopao’s addition guarantees the high quality of North American coaching the league has promised, as well as a few additional curious eyeballs from the Great White North.

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.