ELF: Homegrown Hero Series – Rhein Fire Defensive Tackle Jason Chikere

The Championship Game is upon us in the European League of Football. As only two teams remain looking to raise the 2023 trophy, we’ll continue to highlight the league’s best international players, as 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 and maybe even becoming champions this season.

So far, the Rhein Fire have been the class of the European League of Football as they look to put the cherry on top of a perfect season this Sunday in the championship. One of their biggest keys to success has been their physical and speedy defense which currently ranks fourth in yards.

As every good coach knows, defense starts at the line of scrimmage. For the Rhein Fire defensive tackle Jason Chikere is the true definition of a homegrown impact player as his size and strength have caused problems for opposing offenses all season rakcing up 23 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and five sacks.

Prior to joining Jim Tomsula’s squad, Chikere played junior college football in the United States after a stellar youth career with the nearby Dortmund Giants and Cologne Crocodiles. A true homegrown player from the region, Chikere balances football with work and school as he he hopes to help the Rhein Fire capture the title this Sunday.

Chikere sat down with AFI for a quick Q&A on his football journey and his thoughts on the upcoming 2023 Championship Game.

AFI: How would you describe the matchup with the Surge?

Chikere: First of all, I respect their team and what the franchise has achieved within one year a lot. It takes far more, than what most people see, to turn a franchise around like that. So it’s nice to play against a team like that for the championship. The Surge are known for having a good defense as far as I remember, and their offense has been rolling too lately but if we do our thing on all sides on the field and as a team… we’re a bad matchup for any team. Including the Surge. And it’s really not because we underestimate them or any other team but rather because we know what we’re capable of and must do -and I know it may sound repetitive- but it’s to “Focus and Finish.

AFI: What would an ELF championship mean to you? 

Chikere: A lot, as to probably everyone on the field but as someone who lost 3 bowl games in his career, I’m ready to put in everything on the field to not let that repeat. With that being said, the championship means that we succeeded. A loss would make the whole season and everything we worked for meaningless.

AFI: What’s going to help you win the title Sunday? 

Chikere: I have two words for this ‘Focus and Finish’.

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

Chikere: That’s a question that I’m still trying to figure out myself. I guess I just do somehow. As of now I study and work 2-3 times a week and can adjust it to the training schedule. It can get tough on a packed week but it is what it is.

AFI: What’s it like for you playing for Jim Tomsula?

Chikere: He’s tough, I’ll tell you that. But that’s what you need as a player. To be honest, it takes a lot to describe this question but to make it short: It’s easy. And not easy because he doesn’t have high expectations or won’t demand your best cause he will but because he’s upfront with everything. He tells you how things are and doesn’t sugarcoat whether it’s good or bad. You know what you work on and what you’re good at. Also, I trust him, whenever there is anything going on football-related or not, he always tries to make sure that we’re good and I respect that a lot.

AFI: How does it feel to be playing for the league’s top team? 

Chikere: I mean it feels good I guess but I don’t think there’s a specific feeling to it. Believe it or not, but this isn’t really a surprise to most- if not all in the team. So again, it’s good but it’s what we expect from ourselves and the standard we established. Plus, we ain’t the top team yet.

AFI: How did you start playing football?

Chikere: I’ve been playing since 2015. I remember watching the Super Bowl that year and the sudden urge to be able to play on a stage like that one day. Fortunately, a very good friend of mine who I met in church a year prior to that, introduced me to the Dortmund Giants U19 Team within a month. 

AFI: What is your goal through the sport?

Chikere: In all honesty, back then I wanted to play on a stage like the Super Bowl and make a living through this sport. Over the years it shifted towards me wanting to compete against the best and dominate others.

AFI: What’s your favorite football memory so far? 

Chikere: My first season. The people I’ve met and the memories I have created then and there last far longer than any achievement. And I know it’s vague but it’s really everything. That year had everything. I’ve met brothers for life. People who I’m very close with to this day. I went through the joy of winning and making it to the finals against all odds and learning multiple lessons by losing it. And most importantly, the bus rides.

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

Chikere: The future in Germany looks better than ever. We have the ELF which is rising and hopefully continuing to do so. We also have way more exposure as players in Europe. All of them young players have the doors open to top high schools and D1 college programs. Older players get the chance to prove themselves at international programs like the IPP and the CFL Global Draft. The best thing is, we’re just at the beginning. With that being said, the NFL just announced more games throughout Europe which will benefit everyone who loves football here.

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