Kasey Crosby: After 12 years, continuing to bring Texas flavor to football in Turkey

By Josiah Howard

ISTANBUL (TR) — Kasey Crosby, the newly-signed defensive line coach for the recently-rebranded Istanbul Rams American football team, is one of the most experienced coaches in Turkish football. He’s no stranger to the sport of football or the nation of Turkey, having played linebacker and tight end in high school in Texas, followed by coaching stints for the Istanbul Cavaliers, Yeditepe Eagles, and Koc Rams.

When Crosby first visited the city of Istanbul, Turkey he knew quite a bit about American Football from his experience in high school but had never seen the sport played in another country. His first encounter with football was quite different than what he was used to in the United States.

I was visiting Turkey in 2007 while I was in college, and I went to a game at Ege University. This Ege receiver who was pretty good was there. He went down the field and scored a touchdown off of a go route, came to the sideline, and started smoking a cigarette on a bench. I’m like, ‘What is this?! This is hilarious!’ Anyways, all of a sudden there’s a big change, like a fumble, and the offense had to go out. So this guy puts out his cigarette, goes out there and the very next play scores a touchdown off the same route, comes right back to the sideline, picks up that cigarette butt and he’s smoking again. That was my first impression of football in Turkey.”

Kasey Crosby addressing Istanbul Cavaliers players on the sideline

Something about that experience created a desire in his heart to pack up and coach overseas. He began his career coaching the now-deceased Istanbul Cavaliers in 2009, the first team to compete in foreign countries such as Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania. The Istanbul Cavaliers also went on to win the championship in Turkey that year. Following his year in Istanbul, he helped form and coach the Mersin Mustangs for two years. Those were his only non-winning years, going for 0-4 the first season and 0-3 the second. Crosby moved back to Istanbul in 2012 to be the defensive coordinator with the Yeditepe Eagles under head coach Mike Gunn. In 2013, Gunn left, and Crosby became the head coach for two years.

Meanwhile, the Koc Rams, a team that would later join the European League of Football and rebrand as the Istanbul Rams, had lost their third championship game in a row. Crosby says,

“After they lost the Turkish Final for their third year in a row, they [called me and] were like, ‘Let’s go out for dinner, we’re firing [our defensive coordinator] and we gotta figure out a new coaching staff.’ and I said ‘I’ll only come [be the Defensive Coordinator] if I can help you hire the head coach.’ So I hired Brett Morgan (who now coaches the SsangYong Danube Dragons in Austria). I thought he was really professional and could elevate a new offense.”

The team hired both Brett Morgan and Kasey Crosby in 2015 to coach both the university team and the professional team (both under the same Koc Rams moniker). That year, the team went on to the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) organized Champions League. The team eventually went on to defeat the Carlstad Crusaders of Sweden in an unpredicted upset of 6-0.

Kasey Crosby standing in front of scoreboard in Karlstad, Sweden after his Koc Rams defeated the Carlstad Crusaders 6-0

The European football world was in shock:

It was like a huge shocker, it put Turkish football on the map. No one had ever heard of any football in Turkey, globally, until that game. In fact, the editor for AmericanFootballInternational.com wrote me after the game and said ‘You guys just shocked the world! No one is going to believe this. Is this score even real?” 

Except it was real. It was the first time the Carlstad Crusaders had lost a home game in over six years. Nobody, including Crosby himself, thought they were going to win. It had been a terrible week of practice, nobody was focused the day before during walkthroughs, and the situation looked grim, yet somehow, they pulled through.

The following week, they returned home to win the National Championship and went right back around to participate in the IFAF Final Four, ultimately losing to the Milano Seamen by two points. Crosby vividly remembers calling a time out on a defensive 4th and 18 to emphasize preventing a fake-punt first-down.

Crosby reflects:

“What was so funny is that we literally took the time out to make sure they don’t advance the ball. We’re going to play safe. They were still able to block us and run for the first down. Anyways, then they kicked it to win a field goal and won by two.”

Crosby stepped away from coaching the following year to spend more time with his family and newborn child. However, the call of the game wouldn’t leave Crosby alone. A year and a half later the manager for the Yeditepe Eagles, Efe Ersoy, reached out to Crosby after the coach they contracted didn’t show up at the airport. Their first head coach simply did not board the plane or give any kind of notice that he did not want to coach in Turkey, ghosting the team. Crosby was hesitant to return to coaching, especially without a coach to assist. Luckily, the Eagles’ head coach of two years Eric Hunter felt the same way, and after discussing it amongst themselves, they each decided to coach the team together.

Crosby returned in January of 2018 to the Yeditepe Eagles as defensive coordinator with Eric Hunter at the helm as the head coach. The Eagles were suspended after the first game for the entire season due to license issues resulting in a 1-8 record (of which they only actually played 2 games, beating the ODTU Falcons and Koc Rams, the latter of which the league refused to acknowledge). This caused the former Pro-1 championship contenders to be relegated down to the Pro-2 league. The Eagles outscored every Pro-2 opponent by over 50 points a game, proving they did not belong there. They only had one regular-season touchdown scored on them the entire 2019 season. In 2020, the season was canceled due to COVID-19.

After the 2021 season was canceled by the TKFL, Crosby toggled his europlayers.com profile, a website used to recruit both coaches and professional players, to “looking for a team.” Istanbul Rams head coach Val Gunn contacted him within a day and asked if he would be interested in coaching the defensive line. Simultaneously, Isik University offered a head coaching position to Crosby for their University team.

The Koc Rams have recently been rebranded to the Istanbul Rams after joining the prestigious European League of Football, a new league that has hopefully brought European football to another level of professionalism.

Needless to say, the team will need his deep knowledge of both culture and football to have a chance to compete against some of the bigger-name teams in the now 12 team league such as the newly-crowned ELF champions, the Frankfurt Galaxy, along with the Hamburg Sea Devils, Berlin Thunder and the newly formed Düsseldorf Rhein Fire. Each team has internationally recognized talent from all corners of the world. The Galaxy, will continue into the 2022 season with American-born Jacob Sullivan as their QB, British-athlete Wayne Drew playing DL, Purdue-standout Anthony Mahoungou as WR. The Hamburg Sea Devils return with Kasim Edebali, a German who played defensive end for the New Orleans Saints and Denver Broncos. The recently resurrected Düsseldorf Rhein Fire used to be in NFL Europe from 2005-2007. They have already signed Germany’s best offensive tackle in recent history, Sven Breidenbach, and look to be making more moves towards an elite roster.

At the end of the day, Crosby is excited about the prospect of Turkish football being presented on an international stage, having told americanfootballinternational.com:

I’m excited to be part of the organization again. To be able to see Turkish football grow to the very top level, that’s always been a goal of mine. To be back with the Rams, a team I was part of when they won their first championship and got to the IFAF final four, is special for me. It was a big step to take a Turkish team outside of Europe for the first time and this is the next step, I’ve seen football grow so much here. It’s a big deal for football in Turkey, this team will represent Turkey and I think teams will want to send their best players here to show the rest of the world what we have. I’m super excited to be a part of what’s next.”

For more news on the Istanbul Rams, the ELF, or Turkish football in general please visit americanfootballinternational.com

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