‘Dutch Connection’ hopes to help Braunschweig New Yorker Lions retain German title

The Braunschweig New Yorker Lions are once again preparing to play in the German Bowl for the fourth consecutive year. Their opponents next weekend, also again in Germany’s title game, will be the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns.

And Lions head coach Troy Tomlin will once again be looking to a group of young Dutch players to help his team capture its fourth straight championship.

At the heart of the Lions success this year has been a core of Dutch offensive talent led by running back Chris Smith, wide receiver Tom Van Duijn, guard Tonny Walvis and receiver Evan Landi.

Smith and Van Duijn signed with the Lions in 2015 and have developed into strong components of one of Germany’s American football powerhouses. Both players left the Dutch champion Alphen Eagles following a workout with the Lions last February. Landi joined the club in 2015. His mother is Dutch and he played at South Florida University. He was in the New England Patriots camp in 2013.

This year guard Tonny Walvis followed in their footsteps, completing a quartet of Dutch talent competing for the Lions offense in 2016.

Twenty-four year old Chris Smith began his American Football career aged 13 with the Hague Raiders. In 2011 he signed with the Alphen Eagles, helping them win three national championships before leaving for Germany. In 2016 Smith has been the Lions leading rusher and has developed into one of the leagues most feared backs. He finished the season with 1,298 yards through 14 games and averaged 8.3 yards per attempt.

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RB Chris Smith led New Yorker Lions in rushing this year

Tom Van Duijn began his career playing flag football and quickly found success, representing Holland at the U-15 European and World championships. Like Smith, Van Duijn later joined the Alphen Eagles and helped them dominate the Dutch game before joining the Lions. At 23 years old, Van Duijn has already enjoyed success at some of Europe’s highest levels of competition and has been another key Dutch import for the defending German champions.

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WR Tom van Duijn catches passes and kicks PATs for Lions

Landi a key “Dutch” connection for Lions

Another “distant” Dutch connection also playing for the Lions is receiver Evan Landi. Landi has a Dutch passport (his mother is Dutch) but was born and raised in the United States. After playing at South Florida and getting a preseason tryout with the Patriots preseason roster he landed with the Lions. Landi has been a crucial factor for Braunschweig for the past two years, able to step in at quarterback when necessary where he has won four games.

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WR Evan Landi can also fill in very well at QB

Rounding off the quartet is the Lions most recent Dutch addition, 20 year old guard Tonny Walvis. Walvis began playing at the age of 12 for the Amsterdam Crusaders and grew through the youth ranks, competing for the Dutch U-19 team and being selected for the IFAF World Development Team in 2015. He joined the New Yorker Lions in 2016 and has had to work hard to compete for opportunities on one of Germany’s best offensive lines. At 20 years old, Walvis will be looking to do all he can to help the Lions maintain their success and is certainly a name to keep an eye on in the future.

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Lions guard Tonny Walvis #71

With Dutch talent contributing so much to the continued success of the Lions they will no doubt continue to keep a close eye on Holland for other players to build upon that. It remains to be seen how far this can take them but it certainly looks like the future will be bright.

William Brittain
Will Brittain is a journalism student at St. Mary's University in Great Britain.
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