The Marburg Mercenaries of the German Football League have signed Joe Sturdivant as their new head coach.
The 34-year-old Sturdivant returns to the team he started his GFL head coaching career with. Sturdivant guided Marburg to the GFL quarterfinals in 2012. He has spent the last two seasons as head coach for the Saarland Hurricanes in GFL2 while also serving as defensive coordinator for the Belgian national team. Sturdivant had returned to Europe and Germany after spending five years away first working to build the IMG Academy and then coaching Trinity Catholic High School in Florida. He coached the Marburg to the German semifinals in 2012 after spending the 2011 season as a player/coach for the Catania Elephants of the Italian first division (Italian semifinalists). In 2010 Sturdivant played for Marburg and as the team captain helped the team to an 11-2 record and a berth in the semifinals in the German top division (GFL).
In the 2011 World Championship of American Football, Sturdivant starred for Team USA helping the team to the World title.
He first played in Europe for the Cineplexx Blue Devils (team captain) (Austria) and the team finished with an 11-5 record.
He enjoyed an outstanding career at SMU (Southern Methodist University) in Texas (Div. 1, NCAA) and in 2006 was 4th leading tackler in college football (109) while earning 1st team all conference honors at defensive back. In 2005 he was 5th in the country in pass breakups and 12th in tackles.
He served as the safeties’ coach for SMU during the 2007 season.
American Football International asked Sturdivant about his journey and plans for the Mercenaries.
AFI: Congratulations on returning to your European “alma mater” now as head coach. You have coached the Saarland Hurricanes successfully for two seasons and been defensive coordinator for Team Belgium. Is this the next logical step?
Sturdivant: I love my former team and the organization of the Saarland Hurricanes. There are some very special people that I will miss dearly. I believe moving up to coach in the GFL1 with my Alma Mater would be the next step in my coaching career. We have some unfinished business after losing it the playoffs twice in close games in 2010 and 2012. I have matured a lot as a football coach since 2012. The chance to take over a playoff-caliber team in the GFL1 is an exciting one. The fact that I get to coach with some of my closest friends and former teammates is very special for me. I believe we have an opportunity to do something special in Marburg.
AFI: You returned two years ago to football in Germany after spending five years at home in the US. What have you learned from the past two years?
Sturdivant: The game of football in Germany has grown exponentially. I believe there is a lot more excitement about football here in Europe. The investment in youth programs across Germany has paid off. The talent in the GFL is much better than it was 7 years ago.
AFI: Marburg has had an up and down a few years since you played and coached there. What can you do to stabilize the team?
Sturdivant: First, we must set the direction we want to go and then set a standard of performance that our coaches and players need to adhere to. We will make sure to get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus. I will identify the areas that I can help the most in and work my tail off to fix those areas this offseason. We will install a culture of discipline and work ethic. I believe in disciplined people, thought and action with a flywheel mentality. We keep pushing towards our Goals. We must figure out what we can be the best in GFL at, then do that. Not trying to mimic other teams or things we see on TV. Our Goal as a coaching staff should be to know our team and put our players in the best position to be successful. If players like Football, then they will like the new Marburg Football program. We need people with a mission over selfmindest. Too me, the football part is easy, our focus must be on attitude and mindset.
AFI: Despite the turmoil this past season, the Mercenaries finished third in the GFL South with one of the best offenses in the league and the best passing offense. Will you try to keep the offense intact? What kind of changes do you foresee making?
Sturdivant: They did a great job last year producing points and excitement around the program. I believe the first step will be to install an offense that maximizes our player’s potential to the fullest. Our offense must work hand and hand with our defense and special teams. I will work to capitalize on the success of last year’s offense and identify the areas that I can make it better and try to look for flaws that defensive coordinators around the league might have found. We have some very talented players on the Marburg offense. Our goal as a staff is to identify the Who first, then we will work on the What. My scheme can morph to maximize the talent that we have and fit the allotted time frames that we have to work on it.
AFI: That brings us to defense. Marburg struggled defensively. Have you had a chance to analyze the defense to decide what kinds of improvements to make?
Sturdivant: First, Coach Sergey Schmidt did a terrific job coming in a couple of weeks before the season to put in a defensive scheme and compete in the GFL South. I have watched every game the Mercenaries played last year. I thought there were a lot of areas that the defense did very well. Defensive football is an area that I know very well. I am sure we will make the necessary improvements to have one of the best defenses in the league. Most of the time it comes down to tackling and effort. We will be exceptional in both of these areas. Tackling and effort will be our top priorities as a defense and special teams.
AFI: How much of a jump is it to move from the GFL2 to the German Football League?
Sturdivant: I believe the two areas that separate GFL1 from GFL2 are: Depth and the Speed of the Game. The speed of the game in the GFL1 is a lot faster than it is in the GFL2. There are some very good coaches in the GFL2 that I had the opportunity to get to know. I believe the GFL1 also has some tremendous coaches that I am looking forward to building relationships with. In the end, Football is Football, that part will take care of itself. When you are taking over a new football team I believe the process should start with setting the standard of performance. This standard starts with me. I must spend the time and effort preparing myself for the 2020 season just as much as I spend preparing the players to get ready to play the season.
AFI: Anything else you would like to add?
Sturdivant: Yes, Thank you so much AFI for everything you do for the game here in Europe. You guys are a cornerstone to the success the leagues in Europe are having. I am very thankful to have known you guys for these years. Keep up the hard work! You and your team do a terrific job!