European football veteran Daniel Docal announced as Defensive Coordinator for the NFL Academy

Former GFL, ELF, and Spring League defensive back Daniel Docal has been announced as the Defensive Coordinator for the UK-based NFL Academy through 2026. The move comes following two highly successful years coaching at division one in the US with Bucknell and in Austria with the two-time national champions, Danube Dragons

Docal began his football career when he was 17-years old in his hometown of Madrid, Spain with the Osos Rivas after spending a year studying in America and falling in love with the sport. 

‘I was staying with a family in the US while I was studying English and their nephew was playing college football at the time. I went to a few games and just got hooked. I love the speed, aggression, and tactical elements of the game so I decided to play when I came home to Spain.’

After five years with the Osos Rivas, Docal felt there was more to football in Europe. He set his sights on the highest level of football he could find and landed a spot on one of the most dominant rosters in the last century, the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns in Germany. It was in Schwäbisch Hall under head coach Jordan Neuman that Docal found a passion for coaching too.

‘Playing was always my first priority. I was still pretty young and enjoyed the physical grind a lot, but coaching was always in the back of mind. I coached the youth team in Schwäbisch Hall and it really came quite naturally to me.’

After two years with the Unicorns, Docal spent time in Mexico and again in Spain before ending up back in the GFL, but this time with the Hildesheim Invaders. Here, Docal played with a number of stars such as Keanu Ebanks, Anthony Dable, Nate Morris, Mario Flores. Docal was a vital cog in the team’s secondary and helped the team to playoffs before being ousted by the Frankfurt Galaxy.

In 2020, Covid-19 struck and, for many, it was a year without football, but for Docal, it proved to be one of the biggest opportunities of his football career as he signed for the Generals in the US-based Spring League. Covid restrictions caused plenty of disruption for the league, but Docal still soaked in all he could from his Defensive Coordinator, NFL Hall of Fame linebacker, Mike Singletary.

Restrictions began to settle in 2021 and in Europe a new transcontinental league was brewing, the ELF. Docal made his way back to Europe and joined one of the teams that sprouted up just weeks before the season started under Euro coaching veteran Fred Armstrong, the Leipzig Kings. The Kings were one of the league’s surprises as despite their rushed entrance into the ELF, they were just a touchdown away from making the playoffs.

Docal opted not to return to the ELF in 2022 after receiving an opportunity to go back stateside and coach at Bucknell (NCAA, DI). And it just so happened that one of the coaches at Bucknell was a former player for Armstrong back in the day. He reached out to Armstrong who gave Docal a glowing reference and within a few weeks, Docal was on his way to Pennsylvania.

‘Bucknell isn’t the biggest division one program, but this was actually great for me because I wasn’t just getting people coffee. I was involved in all the defensive meetings. I took indies and worked with the corners. We didn’t win a lot of games that year but we had the best pass defense in the conference.’

Docal was thrown in at the deep end and thought to himself if he could survive division one in the states as an assistant coach, he could be a career coach. Not only did Docal survive, but he thrived. His dedication, preparation, and commitment to the game made him the ideal budding European coach.

Docal took the defensive coordinator role at Danube on his return to Europe. Docal transformed the Dragons into the number one defense in the league that year and helped lead the team to its second national championship in a row. It was while he was in Danube that he began applying for NFL Academy roles too. 

‘I just saw the advert and applied for the role. I went for a ton of interviews and got the job. When I was in Spain I pushed really hard to internationalize the sport. It has been my goal since the beginning and that is what the NFL Academy is all about. Taking the best kids in Europe and Africa and giving them the same opportunities as US kids.’

Through his European tenure, Docal has proven to be an exceptional student of the game. His career is a representation of his adaptability and knowledge and he is now one step closer to his dream of becoming an NFL coach. It won’t be a surprise if more opportunities stateside are in the not-so-distant future.

Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who works in journalism and communications in the third sector. Daniel began playing football for the London Warriors and Team Great Britain and has since played across Europe.