When Max Zimmermann was selected sixth overall by the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the inaugural CFL European Draft earlier in April, his first instinct was to check a map of Canada again.
“I knew something about the Canadian Football League before the Combine from research and from talking to former teammate Glen MacKay, and I had looked to see where the teams were from, but I still had to find out exactly where Regina, Saskatchewan was on a map. It’s a smaller city so for me, coming to a smaller town is great because it will make it easier to focus on football. I know there is lots of history there and footballwise, I now know it has one of the best and craziest fanbases anyway. Everyone in Saskatchewan is basically a Riders fan.”
The Berlin, Germany native, who plays for the Potsdam Royals in the German Football League (although he has put that on hold for now), leaves for Regina on May 17, and training camp opens May 19. The Riders play two preseason games, June 1 against Calgary at home, and then June 7 on the road against the Winnipeg Blue Bomber. The first roster cut-down day is June 8 and the regular season for Saskatchewan starts June 14 at home versus the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Quite a journey for someone who only a couple of weeks before the March 25 CFL Combine was simply preparing for a new season in the German Football League. Although the whole experience was a little overwhelming, he said that traveling with the five other German players was an advantage.
“It was great. We bonded right away. That made a huge difference.:=”
About the Combine itself, Zimmermann was nervous as he had never seen a combine of this scale and organization.
“No, I had been to combines but nothing like this. I wasn’t totally unprepared though. had already been doing track and speed workouts so I didn’t feel out of place in the 40. I was nervous before the one-on-one drills though, as well as excited. I was going up against really good competition but I felt good about it. The same went for the interview session. I thought it was kind of fun.”
An former teammate of Zimmermann’s from the Berlin Adler, and a Canadian, Glen MacCay, played for the Montreal Alouettes, Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Edmonton Eskimos before winding up in Berlin. According to Zimmermann, he has been a big help in teaching him the ropes about the CFL.
“Glen has told me what to expect from training camp so I don’t think I will get a shock. We aren’t used to a training camp this long with just football. He has also explained a lot about life in the CFL.”
Although he admits to feeling some pressure in representing Europe, and of course Germany and his hometown of Berlin, it is not a negative thing.
“I do feel that pressure to perform well for by country and for Berlin, but at the same time, it gives me extra motivation. I can’t wait to get there and be a part of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.”