American safety/linebacker Stephen Peyton to lead Lazio Marines defense for 2017 Divisione 1 FIDAF season
Orginally from California, Peyton is experienced European athlete with three seasons in Europe behind him, all of which have been topped by Finnish national titles with the Roosters.
Peyton played his college ball at Brown University of the Ivy League (NCAA FCS) where was was a safety during his four years. While in Europe he’s been a dynamic defender holding various other roles, such as a linebacker, receiver and returner.
At 6’2″ (190 cm) and 220 lb (100 kg) his imposing physique, devastating tackles, and knowledge of the game will make him an invaluable asset for Marines during their Divisione 1 Italian campaign.
AFI chatted with Peyton a few weeks ago, before his season opening 14-6 win last weekend over the Bergamo Lions.
American Football International: Can you talk a little bit about that, how you came from playing three seasons in Finland to going to Italy.
Stephen Peyton: My first opportunity in Finland came after my friend Antonio Harris got hurt and the the Helsinki Roosters recruited me from Europlayers. I got there in July and played in three or four games before the playoffs started. We won the championship that year and I developed friendships with the coaching staff, management, and players. I had three total seasons with the Roosters, and after Juha Hakala got the job with the Marines he asked me if I would be open to playing in Rome. Now I’m here.
AFI: How as Italy been so far? Have you starting practicing? What is your day-to-day like? Where do you live?
Peyton: Rome is an amazing city. The people are extremely friendly and the walking around the city center is amazing- you can come across something new every day. As far as my day-to-day, I’m slowly learning Italian, we have practice a few times per week, and there are lots of places both in Rome and nearby for me to explore. I live with the other imports in Dragona, just outside the center.
AFI: Can you compare it to American football in Finland?
Peyton: Italian American football is similar to Finland in that they’re both still working to grow the sport and find new ways to market and appeal to potential players and fans. In terms of level of play – we’ll have to wait and see how gameday goes before I can give you an accurate comparison.
AFI: What are your goals for the 2017 IFL season?
Peyton: To win the Italian Superbowl.
AFI: Can you talk at all about what Head Coach Jukka and other imports bring to the team?
Peyton: We have a great group of imports including coaches: Juha Hakkala – Head Coach, Matt Thomas– Offensive Line, Brian Machete (Dual Player), and Micah Brown– Quarterback. We have an experienced group of guys who have won championships in multiple countries. I think we’ll be able to teach the young guys about a championship culture and hopefully do a lot of winning.
AFI: Do you have an predictions from 2017? Can Lazio break through against some of the top northern Italian teams in Milan?
Peyton: I don’t know how the season will end up, but there does seem to be an idea floating around that the North is always better than the South. I’ve never played a team from any part of Italy but I’m excited to see how we stack up.
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