ELF: Homegrown Hero Series – Tirol’s Med-Student tailback Tobias Bonati

The mid-season point of the European League of Football has arrived and the ELF’s third season has shown the promising development of many domestic players. 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 biggest stories of the first half of the season has been the Raiders Tirol’s success. Many experts weren’t sure how the Raiders would be able to cope with the retirement of long-time quarterback Sean Shelton in 2023. However, the Raiders Tirol, have for the most part, silenced the doubters as new quarterback Christian Strong and a myriad of European talent have led the team to a 5-2 record through seven games.

One of the leaders in the Raiders’ offense this year has been veteran running back Tobias Bonati. There was a lot of hype for the Raiders backfield as NFL veteran Sandro Platzgummer returned home to play in the black and silver. However, after Platzgummer’s injury in week four, Tobias Bonati has stepped up and been a more than reliable weapon for Tirol rushing for 465 yards and five touchdowns on the season, good for fourth in the league.

Off the field, Bonati is a diligent medical student balancing exams and Europe’s best football league. One of Bonati’s biggest games came against the Milano Seamen in Week Five where he scored two touchdown and ran for 158 yards to help the Raiders cruise past the Seamen.  The medical student and long-time Raider is now looking to build on this 471 yard and four touchdown season in 2022 and help the Raiders back to the playoffs and maybe even a surprise title run.

Tobias Bonati 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?

Bonati: Back in 2010 a friend of mine already played for the Raiders and introduced me to the sport. Ever since I joined the team I fell in love with the sport.

AFI: What is your goal through the sport?

Bonati: My goal is to collect as many memories with my teammates as possible on and off the field. And of course in doing so winning a lot of games.

AFI: How does it feel to be representing the Raiders in this new era for the team in the ELF and without Sean Shelton?

Bonati: I always took pride in playing for the Raiders especially because I know how good of an organisation they are. Therefore, it was the right decision to join the ELF last year and we all are very excited for what’s to come.

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

Bonati: There are a few. Of course, our perfect season in 2019 where we went 16-0 and won CEFL, ECTC Championship, and the Austrian Bowl. The Austrian Bowl in 2018, where we won 51-48 with a game winning field goal with 3 seconds left on the clock and winning the European Junior Championship in 2017 was also special for me.

PHOTO: SWARCO RAIDERS 2018 Austrian Bowl Champs

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

Bonati: I think the sports keeps growing especially now with the ELF and more presence in the media. The flag football community gets bigger because it is played a lot in Austrian schools which also leads to more kids coming to tackle football.

Photo via Raiders Tirol

AFI: What’s it like staying with the Raiders and helping them on a title run this season?
: It’s a big honor and I have put a lot of work in especially last offseason. I will do whatever I can to help this team win.

AFI: What’s the goal of the Raiders this season?

Bonati: Winning the Championship, that‘s what we are here for.

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