Leipzig Kings receiver Anthony Dablé-Wolf back like he never left

The European League of Football is about to enter its second season and one of the league’s most recognizable stars is returning with it.

On Thursday, the Leipzig Kings surprised many when they announced that French wide receiver Anthony Dablé-Wolf had re-signed with the team for the 2022 campaign. The former NFL player was one of the first European stars to join the ELF a season ago but had been signed as a player coach with the GFL’s Allgäu Comets earlier this year, presumably bringing his time in Leipzig to a close.

Two months later, the 33-year-old is back like he never left. Speaking on the phone after the announcement, Dablé explains that his departure from Leipzig was largely due to timing, as was his change of heart.

Organizational uncertainty in Leipzig early in the offseason delayed a contract offer, allowing time for his friend and former teammate Francis Bah with the Comets to reach out with a chance to join him in the GFL. He accepted, but there was never any animosity between him and the Kings.

“I was always in good contact with head coach Fred Armstrong. The situation last year was tough and we created a really deep bond. We were always talking with each other,” Dablé explained. “Even when he offered me to come back and I told him I already found the situation in Allgau, he told me, ‘I just want you to be good.'”

Photo: Eric Muehle

Dablé was announced as the Comets receivers coach but intended to play as well. However, the monetary situation in Allgäu required that he take a formal job outside the organization. That was not a problem, with the work supposed to be primarily from home and it meshed well once the receiver was accepted for a chance to pursue his MBA. School, work, family and football could be reasonably balanced out of his home office.

However, the demands of his employment quickly changed, and he was expected to commute into the office more often. Between work and practice, he was finding himself in the car for three hours a day, throwing his life into chaos.

“It wasn’t doable. I didn’t have time to study. I didn’t have time to spend with family. I didn’t even have time to go to the gym, to watch film, to practice. I couldn’t prepare as I should,” Dablé said.

That was not the fault of the Comets, but Dablé realized that he required an environment in which there would be enough financial stability to focus on football and completing his MBA. The ELF could offer that and an ecstatic Armstrong welcomed him back to the Kings with open arms.

He returns to an organization much better off than when he first chose to leave, stabilized by the presence of new team co-owner Moritz Heisler. The head of intercontinental supply chain solutions at global logistics firm DB Schenker, Heisler will be the solution to many of the challenges the Kings faced in their first season in terms of access to the necessary resources for success.

“He has a vision. He knows football and he sees things getting big. He’s investing in it,” Dablé noted. “This is somebody that you can count on because he’s investing his time. He’s traveling every week to go from Hamburg to Leipzig. Such commitment tells you a lot.”

Uncertainty around ownership was a large part of why he didn’t come to terms with the Kings initially, but the star receiver believes big things are now in the team’s future.

“I’m a person that likes to read between the lines and Heisler’s a man of his word,” Dablé predicted. “Even when I had signed in Allgäu, he said we’d love to have you and if we can make it happen at some point, my door is always open. And it actually is. It’s a lot of little stuff that tells me that I can trust him and things are going to change.”

Those changes will mostly be above Dablé’s pay grade, but he’s driving progress forward in his own way. The six-foot-four, 220-pound Frenchman remains a weapon with 43 catches for 532 yards and four touchdowns to his name last season, but as he enters the back half of his career, his focus is shifting.

Both he and Armstrong see his value as that of a coach on the field, offering guidance to the team’s new wave of young pass catchers that he alone in Europe possesses  after signing with the New York Giants in 2016 and Atlanta Falcons in 2017.

“I had the chance to go over there and see two different training camps, two different teams, how they work, how you’re coached, the level of detail, what’s important.  I just want bring that to the receivers here,” Dablé said.

“This is my goal. This is what I want to do. I want to play, I want to show it on the field, but I also want to coach so good that I’m not even considered a threat anymore because of our young receivers.”

Photo: Annie Shnaider

That suits the Kings just fine, so long as Dablé’s big body is still able to put up points in the redzone. The ELF is likely pleased as well, ensuring that one of their marketable NFL alumni remains in the fold as they push for more recognition and notoriety in year two.

Uniquely qualified to make an assessment on how the league fared at its goal of offering a professional quality product last season, Dablé came away impressed. The video quality, marketing and highlight tapes have elevated the European game and he’s excited to see what’s next.

“It is not the NFL yet,” Dablé remarked. “But we have the blueprint.”

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.