Germany’s Saarland Hurricanes sign gold medal winner Joe Sturdivant as new head coach

The Saarland Hurricanes from Germany have signed Joe Sturdivant as their new head coach.

The 32-year-old Sturdivant returns 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 Mercenaries  to the German semifinals two years in a row after spending the 2011 season as a player/coach for the Catania Elephants of the Italian first division (Italian semifinalists). In 2010 Joe 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.

He has already made his first move in bringing in European veteran and National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Football Hall of Fame coach Joe Roman as defensive coordinator.

American Football International asked Sturdivant about his journey and plans for the Hurricanes.

American Football International:  You have returned to Europe after a five year absence. What convinced you to return?

Joe Sturdivant: I believe the game of football has gotten tremendously better in Europe of the past five years. I had a great time as a player and coach in Europe and felt it was the best opportunity for my family. I believe in the success of the GFL and want to help develop the league by being an ambassador of the game of football. I believe that players in Europe play the game for all the right reasons and ultimately that is what brought me back. The Saarland Hurricanes are a terrific organization and I was extremely impressed during my visit to Saarbrucken last week. I believe the Hurricanes are a sleeping giant located in a terrific city. After watching every game the Hurricanes played last year multiple times i came to the conclusion we have a very talented team that can become a tremendous football program over the next few years.

AFI: What have you been doing since you were last in Germany?

Sturdivant: The reason I left the Marburg Mercenaries after only one season was to move home to marry my wife Virginia. I was contacted by Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke to help him start the IMG Academy Football program. I was named Defensive Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach by Coach Weinke. We built IMG into the #1 High School Football team in Florida and #1 Ranked High School football team in the US after only 2 years. During my time at IMG I got the oppotunity to work with train coach many current and former NFL players and coaches. This success created the opportunity for me to accept the Head Coaching and Assistant Athletic Director role at Trinity Catholic High School where we won the District Championship and made a run to the Elite 8 in florida’s 3A classification.

AFI: How do you think the game has developed over the past few years in Germany and Europe?

Sturdivant: I have been following football in Germany and Europe of the past five years. I believe the game has grown tenfold. I believe the coaching, skill level and excitement around the game have all increased. There is tremendous talent in the GFL currently. The game is increasing improving and the fan base is growing, I want to be a part of the rise of the GFL and football in Europe.

AFI: Having a veteran like Joe Roman as DC must feel good.

Sturdivant: The opportunity to coach football with Coach Roman again is a blessing. To be able to hire a Hall of Fame college coach with 15 years of European Coaching experience is definitely a great step to building a world class coaching staff. I played and coached for Coach Roman for 2 seasons in his defense and currently use a lot of his coaching schemes. Having worked together in the past allows us to immediately be on the same page defensively and hit the ground running full speed into the season. I feel extremely comfortable knowing that the defense will be in great hands.

AFI: What foods have you missed since you have been away?

Sturdivant: Currywurst hands down.

AFI: The team underachieved this past season. What can you do to improve things?

Sturdivant: First thing we need to do is to get the right people on the bus and the wrong people of the bus. Then we will instill a culture of discipline across the organization. The final piece will be to build a coaching staff dedicated to building a culture of winning.

AFI: What do you think you bring to the team?

Sturdivant: I believe they are getting a coach who believes that Good is the Enemy of Great. That will be dedicated to the future of the Saarland Hurricanes. I am a former player and coach in the GFL1 and have spent the last five years thinking about what the best plan for a successful return would be. I believe i can bring a wealth of knowledge to the Saarland Hurricanes and a commitment help develop every coach and player in the organization to ensure the continuing success of the organization for the future.

AFI: What are your expectations?

Sturdivant: I expect to for us to create a Hurricane Mindset in Saarbrucken. A real hurricane does not just hit you and leave, it inflicts so much damage because of the constant pounding of winds, continuous drilling of waves, and a storm surge of rising tides that last for days at a time. This is how I want our mindset to be. We are not looking to come in and have a great season and be done. We are looking to get better every practice, training session and game over and over again. Just like a hurricane we bigger and better over time.

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