ELF: Istanbul Rams sign NCAA record holding LB Zachary Blair

The Istanbul Rams of the European League of Football have bolstered their defense with the signing of the NCAA Div. II career tackles-for-loss record holder Zachary Blair. The veteran linebacker has played in Europe since 2017 with stops in Italy, Poland, Finland, and Germany. Rams head coach Val Gunn on their newest defender:

““We had to play against Zach when I was the head coach for the Wroclaw Panthers and he was on the Lowlanders. It wasn’t easy, he’s a very difficult player to contain and absolutely gave everything he had against us in the Polish championship game. We came out on top, but vowed that if we could sign him—we would. There is no one better we could sign on the defensive side of the ball. I am so glad he’s with us!

The 6’2″ 220 pound linebacker was a key part of the Stuttgart Surge defense last season. Despite joining the team after three games Blair led the Surge with 66 total tackles and his average of 9.4 tackles a game ranked him third in the league. The 26-year-old defender also made an impact on special teams blocking four kicks.

Before joining the ELF, Blair played with the Warsaw Mets in Poland for the early part of 2021. Prior to that, he spent part of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season in Finland with the Wasa Royals and recorded 14.5 tackles and 3 tackles for loss, in four games. Blair also played the last four games of 2019 also with the Royals recording 31.5 tackles including 8.5 tackles for loss. He spent the first part of 2019 playing in Poland for the Bialystok Lowlanders making 58 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, and eight sacks. In 2018, his first year with the Lowlanders, he had 75 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, and four sacksThe record-setting linebacker first arrived in Europe playing for the Ancona Dolphins in Italy’s Division I in 2017 and immediately had an impact with 66.5 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks.

The native of Front Royal, Virginia, enjoyed a stellar collegiate career at UVA-WISE (NCAA Div. II) where he set the NCAA career record for tackles for loss with 77.5. He was named Virginia’s small college Linebacker of the Year in 2016 after amassing 87 tackles in 11 games. He also won the award in 2015.

Blair is the first import to be announced by ELF’s newest team as Istanbul’s head coach Val Gunn slowly builds his team in preparation for the upcoming season.  The experienced linebacker projects to be a vital component of coordinators Phillip Gremaud’s defense.

Check out Blair’s 2021 highlights



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