Mexico: Shelton Eppler’s international journey has taken him through Denmark to a title game in Mexico

Quarterback Shelton Eppler is having an incredible year in his first season in Mexico’s Liga de Futbol Americano Profesional.

The Navasota, Texas native led the league in passing throwing for 1,677 yards and 15 touchdowns and is the favorite in the MVP race after guiding his team, the Fundidores de Monterrey, to their first ever Tazón México appearance this weekend when they face the Gallos Negros de Querétaro in the LFA’s championship game.

However, this incredible journey actually started last year for the Northwestern State University alum. Last fall, he was playing in Denmark for the Aalborg 89ers and guided his team into the Danish semifinals in his first season in international football after throwing for 1,723 yards and 17 touchdowns during the regular season. It was, perhaps, a portent of things to come. Now he is preparing to win a championship as the leader of the Fundidores.

In this exchange, Eppler talks about his path to Mexico, the work of his team and what is next for him.

AFI: Before you played in Mexico, you played in Denmark. How did you end up there?

Eppler: I was very interested in pursuing football overseas. My brother plays professional baseball and spent a year in Japan before playing where he is now in South Korea for the Kiwoom Heroes. The thought of traveling the world while playing football excited me. I unfortunately didn’t have a pro day my senior year in college and was supposed to try out in front of the (CFL) Saskatchewan Roughriders, but the tryout was canceled due to COVID-19. So, I created a profile and got in contact with the head coach from Denmark and liked the relationship that was built.

AFI: What led you to end up playing in Mexico for the LFA in particular?

Eppler: In high school, I actually played against the UANL Tigres team here in Monterrey and the offensive coordinator for the Fundidores, Coach Alfredo Hernandez, was a part of the coaching staff of the Tigres when I played them in high school. He reached out to me to see if I was interested in playing in the LFA in Mexico and I said absolutely. The rest has been history.

AFI: What has it been like as the quarterback of the Fundidores?

Eppler: It’s been awesome, we have a very talented and driven team! I’m glad that we are able to showcase that every week and we will continue to do that on May 21st. Our fans have been amazing, and we would not be in the position we are without them.

AFI: How did the coaching style and leadership of head coach Carlos Strevel help transform the team?

Eppler: His passion for the game of football is very noticeable, he’s not only a great leader but an even better person. He makes a point to not only know you as a player but as a person. It’s been an honor to play for Coach Strevel.

AFI: Did you always believe you would end up in the championship game?

Eppler: Absolutely, we definitely have the skillset from players to coaches and deserve to be there. However, we aren’t done yet and have one final task to accomplish. 

Shelton Eppler in action as QB for the Aalborg 89ers in a game against the Copenhagen Towers in May 2021 in the Danish Nationalligaen. Photo: Mikkel Bo Rasmussen / 1st Down

AFI: What was the game plan when you were trailing in the semifinal with five seconds to go and what was going through your head when he scored the game-winning touchdown?

Eppler: My only thought was to get the ball in my playmakers’ hands, whether it be a wide receiver or a running back. Once I saw Duke (#4) get a good release and run across the middle open, I wanted to try and get him the ball before the safeties could make contact. Once I threw the ball, Duke did the rest! It was an amazing play from the offensive line, giving me time to see Duke making the play of the game/season. When he scored, I didn’t know how to react. I didn’t know what exactly happened. Of course, I believed we had a chance to still win, as it happened it was an unreal feeling that overwhelmed me. Duke told me earlier that day that something amazing was going to happen and that did happen.

AFI: With your play this season, many have said you are the favorite to win the MVP award. What are your thoughts?

Eppler: MVP awards are individual awards, and I haven’t thought about that. The only thing that matters to me is that we focus on the championship and bring the trophy back to Monterrey as a team. That is my main goal to accomplish. 

AFI: What is your assessment of your opponents in the championship game, the Gallos Negros, from a quarterback’s perspective?

Eppler: They are a very good team and have shown it all year. They are on a hot streak, and we cannot take them lightly. It will be a good game and I’m excited for it.

AFI: How is the team going to prepare for the championship game?

Eppler: Just like we have been all year, focus on going 1-0 every week. If we find a way to get better every day leading up to the game, then we have a great chance of winning. It takes all of us, and we will be ready to play.

AFI: How long do you see yourself playing professionally?

Eppler: That’s a tough question, I love the game of football and always have. As I have recently got married, football is my second priority behind my family. If football allows me to support my family financially then I will continue to play this amazing game.

A recent graduate of Hofstra University in New York. He is currently a sports freelance journalist and podcaster