From Germany to Japan: QB Kurt Palandech making his mark in a new country

When the Nojima Sagamihara Rise line up to face IBM Big Blue in the final round of Japan’s XLeague this weekend, there will be plenty at stake.

A Nojima victory could possibly open the door to a berth in the X Bowl, a concept that was unthinkable following the Rise’s opening round 48-3 loss to the Fujitsu Frontiers.

Still, for Nojima quarterback Kurt Palandech, who arrived in Japan just in time to orchestrate the Rise’s 17-14 surprise win over the Elecom Kobe Finies, that kind of speculation is left for others:

“We are excited for the opportunity against IBM. Offensively speaking, we want to improve from last game and demonstrate we can be more efficient passing and hopefully continue our success on the ground. We are focused on what we can control and that is preparing our best to get another win. We’ll see where we stand after that with records and tiebreakers.”

Photo: Kohei SAEKI @Official RISE

The 25 year old Palandech, a native of Plainfield, Illinois, completed 16 of 26 passes for 195 yards and one touchdown in the victory over Elecom and was a key factor for a Nojima team that had been beaten up by Fujitsu in the opening game. Palandech arrived in the nick of time so to speak although that was not the plan.  As it did throughout the world, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into the original plan:

“I had actually signed with the Rise in February, but due to the corona virus and travel restrictions, I did not arrive in Japan until October after the first game.”

The University of Nevada at Las Vegas, UNLV, grad spent the 2019 season playing in the German Football League with the Berlin Rebels where he led the team to the playoffs while throwing for 2,306 yards and 24 touchdowns while missing three games and splitting the quarterbacking duties in another. It’s a long way from Germany to Japan but it was something he was intrigued with trying out.
“I first heard about the X league while I was playing in Germany (GFL). I reached out to a fellow UNLV alumnus, Tim Goins, who was a former coach/director for the X League. I am grateful for his insights and help with the recruiting process.”

Although he had success with Berlin in the GFL, and had become acclimatized, arriving in Japan was another major cultural change he has had to deal with:

“Playing for the Berlin Rebels was a great experience and it was the first time I traveled overseas. There were many cultural differences but I enjoy learning and experiencing the different ways of life. Although the off-field lifestyle can be very different, the main principles of football seem to be universal.”

Berlin Rebels QB Kurt Palandech rushing against Kiel Baltic Hurricanes in German Football League action Photo: Berlin Rebels

Once in Japan, there was little time for adjustment though.

“I had five practices with the team before the game but I guess it was enough.”

With Palandech under center, the Rise eked out a 17-14 win giving the Rise a huge boost, and confidence in their new quarterback.

“It was a great team win and I’m happy with the way our team competed. The year of 2020 has caused a lot of postponing and waiting so it felt great to finally get on the field and play. It was great to start off with a win but it was far from perfect. I have room to learn and improve in this offense.”

While Palandech is adjusting to a new culture, he is also adjusting to differences in diet, although there are similarities:

“I enjoy the Japanese cuisine; the steaks and world-famous sushi are some of the best. Occasionally, there are times when I am uncertain what I’m eating but so far everything has been excellent.”

Photo: Kohei SAEKI @Official RISE

Like everywhere else in the world, COVID-19 has turned society upside down and Japan is no different.

“Much like the rest of the world, Covid has limited some aspects of life in Japan. Most places are open but have restrictions and safety precautions. Fortunately for football, we are able to practice and have meetings.”

While Palandech is coping with the change in culture, cuisine and the time change, his family will be cheering him on the same way they did when he played in Germany.

“I am very grateful to have a family that supports me on my journey overseas. They understand my passion for the game of football and are glad that I have an opportunity to keep going. They’ll be watching and cheering on the Rise from the States.”

Palandech and the Rise have one game remaining in the regular season, a rare Monday night game, November 23 against IBM Big Blue. The game will be carried on Japan’s Eleven Sports live  and the link will be available here on American Football International.

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