ELF: Homegrown Hero Series – Berlin Thunder’s Nicolai Schumann

The final few weeks of the European League of Football have arrived in the ELF’s third season, as many European players continue to help the league grow and improve its level of play.

With that in mind, the ELF Homegrown Hero series aims to shine a light on those players outside of the US and Canada making an impact on the ELF.

One of the stories of the European League of Football this season has been the Berlin Thunder, as one of the ELF’s original franchises has been able to shake up the league this year as they seem to be bound for a playoff spot after improving every year since their 3-7 2021 season.

After flirting with the playoffs last season, the German capital’s ELF team took huge strides this year and secured a playoff spot.

One player who has been with the Thunder since their start has been veteran German tight end Nicolai Schumann. Schumann has 56 catches for 752 yards and nine touchdowns during his career with the Thunder. This season Schumann has hauled in 15 passes for 185 and four touchdowns helping the Thunder to a 5-3 record.

Prior to joining ELF in 2021, Schumann stacked several standout seasons in the German Football League playing for the Berlin Adler, Berlin Rebels, and New Yorker Lions, where he won the German Bowl in 2019.  

During this three season stretch from 2017 to 2019 Schumann was arguably the GFL’s top tight end, racking up 1,795 yards and 30 touchdowns. Since coming to the Thunder, Schumann has been a big part of their rise from the cellar of the league to a playoff bound team. 

Schumann sat down with us for a quick Q&A on his football journey and his thoughts on the 2023 season. 

AFI: How did you start playing football?

Schumann: When I turned 18 I wanted to try cause I always loved movies like Friday night lights, the longest yard and so on. I got bored by soccer so I tried.

AFI: What is your goal through the sport?

Schumann: I want to be successful with my team that I am playing with. Building friendships really comes along with it.

AFI: How does it feel to be one of the top TE’s this season?

Schumann: Well, I feel good about it. Back in the GFL a couple of years ago I was the best in 2018/2019 but now the league has become bigger and there are more players with a high skill level. I am not getting younger so I have to keep grinding.

AFI: How do you balance football and work and school?

Schumann: It’s tough but manageable when you talk with your boss and colleagues about shifts on practice days and so on. Also I am not working 40h+ and I am part time self employed, that makes it a little easier.

AFI: What’s your favorite football memory?

Schumann:  Winning the German Bowl in 2019 with the New Yorker Lions. We had a absolute massive team that year. 

AFI: What’s the future of football in Germany?

Schumann: I hope it keeps growing. Step by step it will turn out the right way. The ELF has a tough job now with the folding of Leipzig and maybe even Prague. Time will show how they handle it.

AFI: What’s it like fighting for the playoffs with the Berlin Thunder?

Schumann: Fighting for it last year was tough cause we left a lot of things on the road kind of. We had a huge turn around from year 1 to year 2 and therefore we did pretty well.

AFI: How do you feel the Thunder has grown as a organization since year one?

Schumann: It’s just going up. I can speak from the players perspective that the thunder franchise is working so good that it just goes up ever since Björn Werner took over and made Diana Hoge our GM. We have a great office, great coaches and staff.

AFI:vWhat’s the goal of the Thunder this season?

Schumann: We’re playing to become champions.

AFI: What’s the goal of the Munich Thunder this year?

Schumann: Obviously, every team wants to play in the playoffs, so do we. As of now we are not in the playoff picture but crazier things have happened in football. Other than that, we want to stay as healthy as possible and set up the franchise for years to come. 

AFI: Any advice for young European players?

Schumann: Be a team player, be coachable, stay humble and also work when nobody is watching you.

Alex is a former NCAA and semi-pro American football player who is now located in London, where he works in digital marketing. His goal in writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and