Ítaly: The 2024 IFL season could be special

The Italian Football League has been a long-time staple of European American football over the decades and as a result, the league is no stranger to having elite American athletes play within its teams.

Kris Durham, a former fourth-round NFL pick played for the Parma Panthers in 2017-18. Steve Hagen, also currently the head coach of the NFL Academy was the Guelfi Firenze head coach following a successful career in the NFL and college. Matt Hazel, a receiver who spent four seasons in the NFL on various practice squads after being drafted in the sixth round by the Miami Dolphins, took a season with the Lazio Ducks. There are many more to mention, Brad Miller, formerly of the Broncos, Joe Vellano a Superbowl champion with the Patriots and current Missouri special teams assistant Brock Olivo. There is no shortage of names to mention; the league has always been an attractive destination.

Lazio Ducks Matt Hazel catching a-pass against Milano Rhinos. Photo: Stefano Scaccia

The 2024 season arrivals

After going on a rigmarole about Italian league history, we can finally get into what might make the 2024 season one of the most entertaining of all the European leagues that will commence. Some of the players and coaches that are coming into the Italian league for their debuts are very exciting for the fans.

Firstly, Brian Pariani is a four-time Super Bowl champion with the 49ers and Denver Broncos and will be advising the Milano Rhinos this season. This is reminiscent of other former coaches and players who have taken an interest in European football over the recent few years. Milano’s quarterback, Hamish McClure, first came to European attention following a record-breaking season with UWE in the UK following his education at Nevada, before taking his talent to the Swedish and Australian leagues.

While on the quarterbacks, the Skorpions Varese team announced that former Super Bowl champion (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2020)), Ryan Griffin will be leading the team in 2024. This adds to the championship pedigree of the league and puts the Skorpions as an early team to watch. Moreover, Ryan Griffin’s brother, wide receiver MacLaine Griffin (Portland State, NCAA Div. I) will be joining the Skorpions as his brother’s main weapon. One would assume they will have instant success and this story is one of the best in Europe in 2024.

This isn’t the end of the NFL experience that has been brought to the league. Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi was a huge offseason story in 2016. He was jobless and homeless, sleeping outside of a gym in Miami, Florida. The Cleveland Browns were holding a free-agent workout that he wasn’t invited to, he managed to get into the workout and impressed as a returner in the offseason for the Browns following a successful trial. There are many other new faces for each team that could be explored further, and I advise everyone to do so.

Returning stars and ELF impact

Naturally, we are going to have many players returning from the previous season or joining new clubs. Particularly, from the Milano Seamen during the ELF offseason. We don’t want to run through the names of all 50 Italian players but there are a few that should be discussed because of their close link to the Italian ELF franchise. The Milano season begins in late May, while the pinnacle of the IFL ends in late June/early July. This means that the best teams in Italy will be holding the majority of Italian talent until a few weeks into the ELF season.

LB Alex Ferrari #11 playing for the Tirol Raiders in 2022. Photo: Valentina

Giacomo Insom and Diego Rinaldi, the former Seamen’s players, Andrea Grillo and Alex Ferrari all are part of the Guelfi Firenze, who are likely to be in the title game, thus unlikely to be in the Milano team come May. Ali Saad, Tommaso Calegari, and Marco Colombo, all from Seamen Milano, are joining a strong-looking Frogs Legnano team.

Giaguari Torino has made quite the impact as well, signing Felix Proulx (Paris Musketeers), Nicholas Dalmasso, Andrea Serra, Enzo Mensah, Luca Assemian, and Tamsir Seck all from the ELF. I could go on about every team’s potential damage to the Milano roster, but whatever way it is worded and discussed. Some of the best Italian talent is residing within the country for the time being. As with the newer arrivals, it’s highly recommended to go through the team’s rosters as many players haven’t been mentioned but are considered elite Italians or were in the top echelon last season.

In summary…

Overall, as portrayed by the signings and the amount of ELF, NFL, and NCAA talent within the Italian league I do believe it could be one of the most tightly contested and exciting seasons in the league’s history. The season opens in late February with Giaguari and the Milano Rhinos on the 25th for the Kick-off Classic. With the track record of the Italian league, it’s bound to be a contest, Milano losing their farewell championship and the Parma Panthers coming out to surprise Guelfi in the Glass Bowl in 2023 were just over the last two seasons. I can’t wait to see how 2024 shapes up.