When wide receiver David Giron from Guatemala came out of an unannounced “retirement” recently to play for Spain’s Osos Rivas, he did it, quite literally, for the fun of it.
One of the top receivers in Europe from 2016 to 2018, playing for the Frankfurt Universe in the German Football League, Giron had stepped away from the game due to job responsibilities which saw him transferred from Germany to the United States this past year.
When he was transferred back to Frankfurt, after 18 months away from the game he loved, he knew he was missing something.
“I hated last year, just working, working out in the gym. I really missed the playing and the camaraderie of a team.”
When he says he missed the game, he means it more than most. This is someone whose love of football is almost unmatched. His story is mesmerizing. He is from Guatemala, a country where most people are not even aware of the sport so his passion for the game confounded his parents. As a young teen, the now 28-year-old, 5’11”, 185 lb native of Guatemala City, pestered them relentlessly while devising his own physical training regime for football. He played soccer, the country’s national sport but thought it was boring. Finally, at the age of 16, he actually convinced them to help him find a home in the United States so he could play football.
His father found a Spanish-speaking family in Fort Worth, Texas and he landed at Nolan Catholic High School where he excelled on the football field. But he wasn’t done there. College was next on his list. He went to work writing letters to schools, eventually reaching out to 100 universities. Western Carolina University, a D1 AA university in the mountains of North Carolina, gave him a tryout as a walk-on. He was one of only three of the 70 hopefuls who made the squad.
The team put him at receiver. Although he was a gifted player, his lack of knowledge of the game became immediately apparent. He had learned coverages from Madden so the receivers coach spent a a great deal of time teaching him every morning.
By the spring of his sophomore year, he was named MVP of spring camp. He was awarded a scholarship and together with his best friend on the team, Helva Matungulu, from Kenya (who played for the New York Jets), he grew optimistic about his college career. He had had the opportunity to play against some of the top teams in college football, such as Alabama, Virginia Tech, Marshall, Middle Tennessee State and Appalachian State.
However, with his career seemingly taking off, his position coach was replaced in his senior year. He did not hit if off with the new coaching. Suddenly he found his playing time cut drastically.
Disappointed but undeterred he took on a new challenge in order to play football.
With both of his brothers living in Europe, one as a track star in Spain and the other playing professional soccer in Spain, it was only natural for David to head to Europe too. So armed with his new-found experience and a background in German from his father, he applied to school in Germany thinking he could get finish his final year at the University of Mannheim and get his degree, learn German and also continue playing football.
So he sought out the Rhein Neckar Bandits American football club in the area who signed him for the 2014 season. Although it was a dismal year for the club in Germany’s top division, Giron was their leading receiver with more than 1,400 yards receiving.
In 2015, after suffering an injury, he found himself in GFL 2 with the Universe. He struggled to regain his health and his production dropped off. But that passion and determination were never far away. He turned things around again in 2016 following the Universe as they advanced to Germany’s top league.
So there he was in Frankfurt, not playing football, but not able to devote the time to the game he knew a team like the Universe needed. And then he gets a call from Mario Flores, a former receiver with the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns, now playing in his hometown of Madrid for Osos Rivas.
Flores asked him about playing in Spain with him and then the club president, Enrique Martín, got on the phone. Come to Spain on weekends to play the games, and maybe get in one practice. Although he couldn’t pay him, Martin promised to cover travel and housing. To Giron, playing in a Spanish speaking country with Flores and the new quarterback for Osos Rivas, world championship-winning Kevin Burke, this was an offer he could not turn down.
Giron jumped at it.
In his first game in almost two years, he caught six touchdown passes. Yep, he is having fun.
“I am having a blast,” he said. “I get to come down on a Friday, get in one practice, play a game on Saturday and come home on Sunday. I thought I was done with football. Now I am playing with one of the best quarterbacks in Europe after having gone through 10 quarterbacks before coming here. This is fun.”
To Giron, playing for free, just for the fun of it, is almost the best part.
“The guys on the team are unbelievable. They have taken me in and treated me like family from Day 1. I did not expect this. I don’t mind not getting paid. This is a great group and Kevin [Burke] is a ‘baller’.”
Osos head coach Jesus Sanchez was impressed not only with his passion but also his approach.
“I have always wanted to have David on my team. I knew about his passion and sacrifice. But he was such a professional from the first time we talked on the phone. After only one phone meeting and practice he had learned the entire playbook. He even called from the airport in Germany asking questions about the playbook. On the sideline, he never left Kevin Burke’s side, peppering him with questions. And he brought an amazing energy that is really hard to find in players. He peps up everyone around him, making them better.”
How long this football commuting experiment will last is still up in the air. But suffice it to say that as long as he is having fun, Giron will have an impact. And right now, he’s having a blast.
Photos: Jose Antonio Carreras