Germany: Canadian QB Christian Strong discusses upcoming matchup with New Yorker Lions, 2nd year with Cologne Crocodiles

As the Cologne Crocodiles (4-3) prepare to face the Braunschweig New Yorker Lions (4-1-2) as the German Football League heads into the home stretch, they will be game planning to intensively as a win would definitely bolster their chances for the playoffs and widen their gap to the other teams in the hunt. The Cologne coaches know that while they currently hold fourth place in the GFL North, they only have a single point lead over the fifth place Berlin Rebels, who are right on their tail for that final playoff position.

A playoff berth is very achievable for the Crocodiles. Cologne has the third highest scoring offense in the North averaging 38.6 yards a game and the third best defense surrendering 25.9 points a contest. In terms of yards, Cologne averages 422.6 yards per game, third behind Potsdam and the Rebels. The Crocodiles have been averaging 302.6 yards passing per game, second only to Potsdam.

The key to their offense is, of course, quarterback Christian Strong from Seton Hill University (NCAA Div. II), who has been having another excellent season in his third year in Germany and second with Cologne.

Strong stands out in the GFL, not only because of his impressive season where he is third in completion percentage (72.4) fifth in passing yards (2,042) and third overall in total number of passing touchdowns (23) for the season, but because he is the only Canadian starting quarterback in the GFL. In his second year with the team, the Brampton, Ontario native is hoping to lead the Cologne Crocodiles to the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time since the 1998-2000 seasons. A win this weekend will only make a scenario like that more of a reality.

In this exchange, Strong discusses his life in Germany and further adjustments in his game plan for this season to make him one of the league’s best pocket passers. Also, he looks ahead for what needs to be done for their pivotal game against the Lions.

AFi: How have the adjustments been in your second year with the Crocodiles?

Strong: This season has for sure been smoother with COVID on the back end. Last year with COVID being more fresh in the country it for sure made things a bit more difficult as many GFL and European teams I’m sure experienced. The Crocs organization collectively stepped up to the plate last year with everything that was thrown at us, and worked even harder for this season. I’m thankful for the great communication with the staff and players, I believe that is something very important and Cologne definitely delivered there. The city of Cologne is amazing and diverse, filled with awesome people and fans!

AFI: What did you do to become one of the league’s best quarterbacks this season? 

Strong: I take pride in always improving each year/season in everything I do. Not only as a quarterback, but as a Christian man, a son, a brother, a boyfriend, a teammate; in all aspects I strive to grow in. In terms of my quarterback play, being in the system for the second year with Coach Odenthal has been fun to say the least! As a quarterback, we always enjoy and notice when the speed of the game slows down and we are able to trust in our reads more. I believe it’s come to that point in my career because of all the time I put in with playbook and film sessions. With the group of players we have offensively, they not only are amazingly skilled in their position, but are great character men as well. It’s a good recipe for success when everyone buys in to the process and is on the same page.

AFI: What does it mean to be a Canadian import leading a team in Germany? 

Strong: It’s something I take great honor in. This beautiful game of football is such a competitive sport, it’s not easy to get an overseas opportunity or a team for that matter that you’re able to stick with. So, I definitely take pride in knowing that I’m blessed with this opportunity to be one of the only Canadian quarterbacks competing overseas in Europe. And I thank the Cologne Crocodiles organization for always making me feel welcomed and trusting in me to be their guy.

AFIWhat do you think your team can do to improve before the season ends? 

Strong: Our team just needs to focus on one game at a time and continue to get 1% better each day. As long as we continue to have each other’s backs and hold each other accountable to being the best we can be, then the sky’s the limit. Of course staying healthy is a key factor around this time of the year too, but we make sure that we stay prayed up in that category.

AFI: This week, your team will face the Braunschweig Lions. What does your team need to do to exploit their weaknesses? 

Strong: We have a strategic game plan on all three phases of the ball: Offense, defense, and special teams. We put the time and effort in at practice and now just have to execute come game time. We know what to expect; NYL are a great and well coached team. They are physical and like to control the tempo of the game; if we control what we do and take care of the football along with making stops, we can return the favor at our home this time with a win. We know what is on the line and both teams want that second seed in the playoff race to receive home field advantage.

Watch the Cologne Crocodiles host the Braunschweig New Yorker Lions, Sunday, August 14, 15:00 CET (3 pm, 09:00 am ET)

A recent graduate of Hofstra University in New York. He is currently a sports freelance journalist and podcaster