Max Zimmermann is all in on his dream of playing professional football.
Zimmermann quit his full-time job as a teacher in Berlin to focus on cracking the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ roster.
The 25-year-old wide receiver took strides toward accomplishing that goal by taking part in the CFL team’s rookie camp, which began Thursday at Mosaic Stadium,
“I’ve never kept it a secret about wanting to play professional football,” Zimmermann said after the opening session. “(My family and friends) weren’t really surprised because they knew from the beginning that if there was a chance to go anywhere else and play professional football that I was going to take it.”
“It’s a life-changing opportunity,” the 5-foot-11, 193-pounder said. “If you love the game of football, there is no better place to develop as a player and as a person.”
Zimmermann’s introduction to tackle football was through videos. In 2013, he finally had an opportunity to actually play the game.
“Seeing videos on the Internet is basically how everyone gets into football in Germany and Europe and I did the same thing,” he said. “I went to the first practice and I fell in love with it on the first day.”
Zimmermann selected football over soccer, which is a more popular and better-known game in Germany.
“I love the combination of the physicality and the technical ways (of football),” Zimmermann said. “I like running, catching and making people miss.”
Zimmerman played with the German Football League’s Potsdam Royals in 2018. He dressed for 11 games, catching 33 passes for 644 yards and nine touchdowns, with a long gain of 73. He also had a 71-yard punt-return touchdown.
He was one of 18 global players selected to attend the CFL’s national combine in March. The combine was his first trip to Canada and his introduction to the Canadian rules after playing the American style of game.
“There are a lot of adjustments,” Zimmermann said. “It’s a bigger field and a different game than we play in Europe. Then there is a new language, culture and different guys. I’m just trying to have fun here, enjoy my time, and soak everything in.”
Zimmermann isn’t the lone global player adjusting to new surroundings.
The Riders’ three prospects from the Mexican draft — Rene Brassea (offensive lineman), Javier Garcia (defensive back) and Sebastian Olvera (wide receiver) — were at the rookie camp after their signings were announced Thursday.
“The size of the players has been a big difference,” Brassea said. “In Mexico, I’m one the biggest players and here I get to play against guys my size. I have to work more on my technique, but I felt pretty good. “I always wanted to play at the next level and the CFL is next-best level below the NFL. That’s why I wanted to be here.”
There are further opportunities ahead because the four prospects have all been invited to the Riders’ main camp, which begins Sunday at Saskatoon’s Griffiths Stadium.
Brassea, meanwhile, has set lofty goals.
“I want to be on the first team and I want to play at this level,” he said. “I want to inspire younger Mexican players so they can have that vision that they can play at the next level.”