ELF’s Ingolstadt Praetorians sign homegrown NFL fullback Chris Ezeala

The European League of Football is still several months away from launch but they’ve already got their first homegrown star.

The Ingolstadt Praetorians announced that the team has signed former NFL fullback Chris Ezeala for their inaugural season.

Ezeala spent two years on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad as part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program. Initially assigned to the team in 2018, Ezeala was brought back for the 2019 season but did not receive a third contract. In eight NFL preseason games, he saw action on 100 snaps as a lead blocker and special teamer, recording one tackle.

Born in Munich, Ezeala began playing football as a 13-year old for the Munchen Rangers before breaking into the GFL ranks with the Allgau Comets in 2015. In three GFL seasons, two with the Comets and one with the Ingolstadt Dukes, Ezeala played primarily linebacker, racking up 205 tackles, 50 tackles for loss and 16 sacks.

Ezeala’s potential as a running back wasn’t realized until his final GFL season in 2017, when he carried the ball for the Dukes 17 times for 206 yards and a touchdown, producing an eye-popping 12.1 yards per carry. His accomplishments caught the eye of current Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach Aden Durde and Ezeala was converted to an NFL fullback under the tutelage of two-time Pro Bowler Earnest Byner.

The five-foot-eleven, 248-pounder will be expected to play both ways for the Praetorians, becoming what head coach Eugen Haaf dubbed a “Swiss army knife” in speaking to Suddeutsche Zeitung in Munich. Ezeala is excited to show that type of versatility and earn his way back to the NFL.

“The ELF is an ideal springboard for me,” says the 25-year old..

The eight team European League of Football, billed as the first professional-style American football on the continent since the departure of NFL Europe, is projected to begin play in July of 2021. In addition to Ingolstadt, the Stuttgart Scorpions, Lower Saxony German Knights 1367, Gladiators Football of Spain and Wroclaw Panthers of Poland have confirmed their involvement. Franchises in Hamburg, Berlin and Frankfurt remain unnamed.

The ambitious league has many hurdles to overcome in order to launch on time in a global pandemic, but Haaf promises more players with “NFL DNA” will soon be joining the Praetorians. Repatriating Ezeala is simply the first big splash and the explosive athlete couldn’t be more excited to be joining the bold new venture.

“Life is often a leap into the unknown,” says Ezeala. “There will be more chapters in my book.”

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.