Historic First As Two Swedish Players Face Each Other in Major College Football

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — With that “five men, one mind” mindset, it doesn’t happen often that an offensive lineman has a chance to be personally involved in a major college football first.

However, it will be different for Marshall starting left guard Sebastian “Swede” Johansson in the Herd’s 2015 season opener.

When Purdue visits Edwards Stadium on Sunday, the 6-foot-5, 297-pound Johansson won’t be the only guy on the field who speaks his native Swedish.

Sweden - Marshall - Sebastian Johansson

Sebastian Johansson

He won’t even be the only offensive lineman on the field who speaks Swedish.

The Boilermakers’ starting left tackle, David Hedelin, is a native of Stockholm and a second-year Purdue starter as a junior college transfer. Johansson, who will make his 25th Herd career start, is from Karlstad.

The Purdue-Marshall game is believed to be the first time two natives of Sweden have played on opposing teams in an American major college football game.

“We have a few guys (from Sweden) in lower divisions, but I think in (FBS), we’ve been the only two,” Johansson said. “It means a lot. I mean, if you’re the only two representatives from your own country, it warms your heart a little bit, and to have us in the same game is really special. I’d like to see more in the future.

“I’ve seen a bunch of guys back home who have the potential, it’s just they may never get the chance. I don’t know how many guys might want to try it. Oh, they might say they have something else going on back home, and club football’s not the big thing, but they do have some athletes back home.”

Johansson and Hedelin do have FBS company this season — and a third Swedish player might be at Edwards Stadium next month, too.

North Texas true freshman tight end Kevin Dillman was born in Ostersund and raised in Ystad, Sweden. The Mean Green plays a Conference USA game at Marshall on Oct. 24. Dillman was 14 when he moved to the United States to play the sport.

Mattias Olsson, the editor and founder of a Swedish football magazine, said via email from Johansson’s homeland that he “can’t imagine it’s happened” that two Swedes have played on opposing teams in any American college football game, “certainly not in DI football.”

Sweden - Purdue - David Hedelin3

David Hedelin

Olsson said his work primarily focuses on the NFL for his Swedish audience,

“but we also do a podcast and we usually throw in a little bit of college football and try to keep up with `our’ guys in the U.S.”

He said Johansson, Hedelin and Dillman are the only Swedish natives in major college football in 2015. Olsson said two Swedes are on the roster at FCS member North Dakota.

Oscar Nevermann, a Wyoming linebacker for two seasons before transferring to play running back at UND, is sitting out the 2015 season. He’s a Stockholm native. William James is a senior safety from Sollentuna. James and Nevermann played club football on the same team in Sweden. Those five are the only Sweden natives in Division I football.

Johansson and Hedelin’s routes to Sunday’s game were very different.

The Herd guard spent one year — his junior year of high school — at nearby Raceland (Ky.) High School, where his size and smarts intrigued then-Herd assistant coach Phil Ratliff, the MU Hall of Famer and Charlotte assistant coach and recruiting coordinator who tragically died 3 1/2 weeks ago.

Johansson, now 24, returned to his homeland to finish high school, then returned to the Herd. Marshall Coach Doc Holliday said when he first got a look at Johansson in practice as a college rookie, the coach “wasn’t sure he’d ever play.

Read theĀ original article published on the Marshall Athletics Thundering Herd website.

Mr. Bogaczyk is the Director of Publications and Editor of the Herd Insider at Marshall University.