German linebacker Thiadric Hansen is one of five European CFL players who is living out his dream, playing professional football for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Canadian Football League.
Life has taken a huge turn for the 26-year-old from Flensburg, Germany. He had been preparing for the season with his team in the German Football League, the Potsdam Royals, when he was suddenly handpicked as one of 18 players from Europe to attend the CFL Combine in late March this year. Following a draft of the European/Global players he wound up at training camp with Winnipeg.
He made it through the rigors of training camp and is preparing for his 12th game as a member of one of Canada’s nine CFL teams, living in a city of just over 750,000 located 4,000 miles from home.
He did not start the year thinking this could happen, let alone dream of it.
In the revolving roster door of the CFL, or any professional league for that matter, rookies find themselves bounced around but in Hansen’s case he seems to have found some stability. In fact, he has excelled and in Winnipeg’s 34-28 win over the Edmonton Eskimos he was on the field for 39 of the Bombers 74 defensive and special teams plays. A far cry from the his first game in a Bombers uniform when he saw the field four times. And from some of the other Global players who have barely been in a game.
He has also been moved from linebacker to defensive end.
AFI: You have become a football pioneer, one of the first Europeans to play professional football in the Canadian Football League. What were your thoughts going into this process back in February when you first heard of this opportunity?
Hansen: I just said why not. In the worst case I would just go back to my normal life. I also thought damn that’s a short time to prepare but I tried to prepare my self as well as I could in those three weeks .
AFI: You went through a grueling combine, a draft and then training camp with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Did you ever doubt the path you took along the way?
Hansen: No not at all. It’s been an amazing experience so far. Of course the camp was hard but it was also fun because you learn a lot and I had coaches around me who really cared about me making it.
AFI: Tell us a little about how it felt to come to a team like the Blue Bombers as a foreigner.
Hansen: It’s no big deal really. You ‘re just a man among men. All what matters is to make the team.
AFI: How much of a difference is it to playing in Europe?
Hansen: It’s faster more physical and of course the rules are a little bit different . Also it’s much more professional. If you want to stay in the CFL you have to be willing to put the extra hours in .
AFI: The Canadian game is different, with rules for a defensive lineman like a yard off the ball. Has it been difficult to adjust?
Hansen: I wouldn’t say difficult because you just adapt to that. I didn’t have a problem with the changes at all.
AFI: What has been the biggest adjustment for you on the field?
Hansen: That I cannot just use my strength and physicality. To win in the CFL you need technique too.
AFI: You have played in every game and had your first sack last week. How did that feel?
Hansen: It’s great I mean all those guys on the team count on you and you don’t want to let them down. And of course for me personally, it’s great too, to see all those hours you put in pay off.
AFI: You have been moved from linebacker which you have played all your life, to defensive end. Is that a more comfortable position for you?
Hansen: I never thought about playing DE when I came here because I was always been a LB. But in the CFL, it’s the better position for me I think and I really fell in love with the position. It’s so much fun playing DE so I’m gonna keep working on my hands and techniques and see where it’s gonna take me.
AFI: How much different is life in Canada and Winnipeg than back home in Germany?
Hansen: That’s probably the most asked question I get and it is really not much different. For me the biggest difference is that the tap water taste awful.
AFI: What does your family think about all of this?
Hansen: They as exited as I am and they all happy for me .
AFI: Can you imagine a long career in the CFL?
Hansen: Yes the CFL is great . I love playing here and really doing what I love to do.