ELF Championship: Pregame questions with the Vienna Vikings

Ahead of the second European League of Football championship game in Klagenfurt,Austria this Sunday, three key members of the Vienna Vikings – quarterback Jackson Erdmann, head coach Chris Calaycay, and offensive coordinator Danny Mitchell – talked about their season and their expectations on the big game against the Hamburg Sea Devils.

What has been the biggest challenge this year for you with the Vikings?

Erdmann: Honestly, I’d say as a team it’s all the adversity with the injuries.  It’s been a lot of ups and downs, it’s a completely different team since the start of the season and I think we’ve had new guys come in every single week.  So just kinda overcoming that, guys stepping in and filling new roles.  As a quarterback, just building that chemistry with everyone on and off the field.  That’s definitely been the hardest part.

How does the European League of Football live up to your expectations?

Erdmann: It’s been great.  The competition is wonderful, the environments, and just everything, even down to the uniforms, I love our uniforms.  It’s just been awesome all around.  I’m so lucky to be part of the Vikings franchise and to be playing in Klagenfurt.  It’s just been an incredible experience.

How will playing in Austria impact the game?

Erdmann: I think it means a lot for the homegrown guys in the Vikings organization, especially with it being the first ELF championship in the first season in the ELF.  It just means a lot to be here, so to be able to bring that back home to Austria just means so much to the Vikings organization, all the homegrown guys, and everyone working here.

What will it take to beat the Sea Devils?

Erdmann: “Honestly just doing our game.  I know it’s cliche, like I’ve said over and over, but that’s just all it is.  We’ve got the talent, we’ve got the game plan and everything, so it’s just execution and doing what we do best.”

What makes you optimistic that your team will win?

Calaycay: What makes me optimistic is because I know our guys, I know our team. And, you know, when you’re coaching a team over the year, you get to know the personality of the team. And we’re a team that has faced every adversity, that they’ve matched that adversity with the will to to put good product on the football field to perform on the football field. And this is no different. You know, it’s kind of everywhere you read if you want to read stuff or listen to stuff, you know, we’re the underdogs going into this game. For us, that’s okay. I know our guys don’t feel that way. I know that our players and our coaching staff, we watch film, and we say Hey, this is what we need to do to win the football game. And we need to go out and perform that. You know, so it’ll be decided on Sunday. They have great players. And I mean, they were ranked number one in defense for a number of reasons. But, you know, in the end, it comes down to those two teams being able to perform through four quarters in a championship game. So from my perspective, I don’t see us as an underdog, but I guess everybody else does. I’m excited to see my guys play against this. This is what you work for. To get a championship game, get the two best teams and to see, hey, who really is the top dog and who’s going to earn it. And that’s what it’ll be on Sunday. It’ll be something that is earned.

Do you think there will be some nerves on Sunday? And what are you going to do to prevent people (from feeling nerves) coming in?

Calaycay: Well, I certainly hope there’s some nerves. I mean, this is a final game and it’s the biggest game of the year. This is fun. This is why we do this, this is the whole goal is to get to this point. You know, our guys, we have tremendous leadership on the football team. We have a veteran group of guys, and the new guys coming in. It’s been a pleasure to see how this thing is all formed out. Because there were a lot of questions about how you would integrate 12 new guys into a team, how would you integrate a guy from Graz or a guy from Linz, or somewhere not in the Vienna Vikings program, and the integration has been as smooth as I could possibly have hoped for. So it’s about those guys coming together and understanding who they are as a football team. I think they have a good sense of that. So that’s how you control those nerves a little bit. It’s business as usual, and the leaders will take care of that. And I think we have a ton of them on the football team.

With the final being in Austria, featuring a franchise from Vienna, in your opinion, what will a victory mean to Austria’s football community?

Calaycay: That’s a good question. I think there’s always that big brother – little brother rivalry between Germany and Austria, getting to know the Austrian-German relationship over the last decade or so. But I think, you know, the Austrians have been no second team compared to the Germans. I mean, we’ve won more Euro Bowls with the Vikings than any other German franchise. You know, we’ve won four back to back to back to back, U-19 national championships. We’ve seen the international team the last time we played, I think it was the 2014 game that went into overtime, that’s pretty equal there. But I think for the community of football in general, I think it’s great for the ELF that you have an Austrian team and a German team in there. And last year was both German teams and this year you see teams like Barcelona step up into the playoffs and last year with Poland so there’s really an international feel to it, that it’s not just a German Football League or anything like that, definitely European. So for the Austrian football community, we’re hoping for 20,000 screaming Austrian fans out there and just having fun with it and being able to see a new team. I think that’s what a lot of Austrian fans really want. You know, it’s been the Raiders and Vikings going at each other for years. But now you get the Hamburg Sea Devils coming in which I think the last time the Vikings played the hammer sea devils was in 2000, way back when I was playing so, I mean, it was just a long time ago. So this is kind of a special moment to see these teams come in and it should be a hell of a game for the fans.

According to the weather forecast, there will be a lot of rain on Sunday. How does it influence your game plan and the preparation for the game?

Mitchell: Gameplan-wise for us, it doesn’t affect how we’re planning the game and the only way it will really affect us is exactly how we’re going to win the football game. Whoever can protect the ball a little better is going to win the game and, you know, I think a wet ball, all that does is make sure we’re actually even more careful with it. 

You have talked about the special players in this league. There’s quite a few of them on the Hamburg team and especially in the defense. How are you going to attack them? Or how do you see the matchup of your O-line against this very special front seven?

Mitchell: The first thing you have to do is recognize that they’re very good players. And I know that’s so cliche to say but it’s true. So realize, hey, their front four is elite. So exactly what our focus will be, we have to be able to control that front four, we know that. But that’s exactly why they’re a good football team, any great football team, you should be able to tell what they’re good at. And we know they’re really good up front. What that also opens up for us is the ability to, maybe if we can control those guys, force other guys on their defense to make plays, the names that you haven’t heard as much. So obviously, our focus is to control those front four. But you know, I think we’re pretty dang good, too. And I’m excited to see what we’ve got. And we haven’t matched up against each other. And I think a lot of the questions, again, will be answered on Sunday. 

A current student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carter played football in high school and has been a lifelong avid football fan.