Munich Cowboys QB Justin Sottilare safely riding out COVID-19 pandemic in Germany

In early March, like every other player in Europe, Munich Cowboys quarterback Justin Sottilare was preparing for the 2020 season.

Then, as we all know, the world came to a grinding halt.

“I had returned to Germany from  Christmans in the States in mid January and by early March we were having fully padded practices. Then COVID put stop to everything on March 12.”

Unlike most American imports in Europe though, Sottilare did not have a tough decision to make when the lockdown went into place. He was already living in Munich. In fact, he has been a resident of Europe for the past three years.

“Well, I met my girlfriend who is from Freibrug, Germany while playing in Spain.  So when I came back to Germany to play early the next year she got a job in Munich so we moved here. Head coach Holley signed me in November last year.”

In other words, heading back home to Columbia, Maryland before the travel restrictions kicked in was not in his plans.

“We were in about the safest place we could be under the circumstances, so we didn’t consider moving to the US. My family understood completely. My father works in a nursing home that got hit by the virus. Thankfully so far he has not been infected but he totally understands the situation. Still, we have been in much more frequent contact than normal, checking up on each other which has been good.”

Since then he has been working out first at home and then in an office gym. All the gyms in Germany were closed until a few weeks ago. Outdoor fieldwork was tough too with no fields available. He and two of the other imports on the Cowboys – RJ Long and AJ Smith – found a local park where they could throw a ball around. He admitted that in the beginning, it took a while to get going.

“My mechanics were really rusty and we were throwing a Canadian football which is a little fatter.”

When the slightly off-topic question arose as to how he became a quarterback in the first place, the self-effacing Sottilare laughed:

“Ah, I’m not athletic enough to play anything else.”

With the easing of the restrictions in Germany, the team is now able to hold limited practices, in groups of four with one ball per group.

“We go for three hours a session. Offense gets Tuesday and defense gets Thursday. There are three time slots, four groups of four for each time. So only once a week for each athlete.”

The German Football League has announced that they will play a shortened season starting September 5/6 provided the German government health authorities permit it. However, there is a very real chance that the season will be canceled. Either way though, Sottilare is preparing.

“I am preparing as if there will be  a season. But, if the season is canceled, and I really haven’t given it that much thought since it is out of anyone’s control, then I will stay in Germany basically preparing for next season. The positives you can take from this would be it gives us more time in the weight room, more time to get practices in, more time to study the playbook, to work on improving strength and speed and to get your mechanics down better. Maybe not ideal but if it comes to that, we have to make the best of it.”

Roger Kelly
Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.
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