New Finnish champions, the Kuopio Steelers, sign QB Joey Bradley

The Kuopio Steelers, fresh off of winning their first ever Finnish title, have signed a new quarterback as veteran Joey Bradley will be behind center for the 2021 season.

The Steelers won the title in Finland after beating the Helsinki Wolverines 21-0 in the Maple Bowl.

Bradley started the season playing for the L’Hospitalet Pioners in Spain’s top league, leading the team to a 3-2 record before the coronavirus put a stop to the rest of the season. Then, when the Czech League of American Football decided on a fall season, he signed to play for the Vysocina Gladiators, leading them to an unbeaten regular season, throwing for 1,951 yards and 30 touchdowns in the eight games, while tossing only two interceptions. Unfortunately, a new lockdown prevented the playoffs and championship game from being played.

The 29 year old, 6’1″, 185 lb Bradley from Seattle (Issaquah), Washington, spent part of the 2016 season and the entire 2017 and 2018 seasons with Poland’s Gdynia Seahawks after guiding the Lisboa Devils to back-to-back Portuguese championship titles.  The Seahawks were runner ups in Poland in 2017 and reached the semifinals in 2018.  He had signed to play in Finland in 2019 but a difference of opinion with the head coach forced him to leave the team. He was nominated for the Harlon Hill award at the University of New Haven (Div. II) after throwing for 2,652 yards and 20 touchdowns in his senior year.

AFI: This will be your sixth year in Europe and you have won two championships, both in Portugal. You have also played in Poland, signed to play in Finland, played in Spain and the Czech Republic. Why the move back to Finland?

Bradley: It’s definitely been a fun journey thus far. I thought there was going to be another championship this year in Czech, but the world had other plans. But Finland has always intrigued me as it’s one of the better leagues in Europe and my grandma is full blood Finn; so it’s provided the highest quality ball with a country/culture that intrigues me the most. I was disappointed that things didn’t work out in 2019 and I knew I wanted to try to return there at some point, so I’m very thankful and motivated to be returning.

AFI: What has it been like playing during the pandemic?

Bradley: Pretty much the same as normal to be honest. Once you get in a game, it doesn’t really matter what’s going on outside of the field, it’s just football. The toughest thing has been the uncertainty with seasons getting cancelled, and then once they do, figuring out the next step. I did about 2 months of lockdown in Barcelona after my season in Spain was cancelled, before moving to Czech and then I did 2 months of lockdown here in Czech Republic before moving to Finland (I arrive there Wednesday).

AFI: Can you compare the football from the different countries?

Bradley: Spain and Portugal are both similar in the sense that there is some really athletic dudes in the skill positions; OL/DL has some skill but just not much size. I think Poland is one of the more underrated countries and is on the rise due to the import rules making domestic players have to step up over the past few years. Czech Republic had some impressive players in both skills and inside the box, but the thing lacking overall is the coaching/preparation. 

AFI: You will be living in your sixth different country. Can you compare the cultures?

Bradley: Again, Portugal and Spain are somewhat similar due to being southern Europe and Latin influenced. Poland and Czech also offers some similarities as both are Eastern Europe that have some overlaps in history and language.  Portugal/Spain are definitely warmer, in terms of weather and people, but with the Poland/Czech, once you make a friend, they’re a friend for life that you can really depend on. I was only in Finland for 6 weeks so I can’t really speak on it too much, I just really appreciated the straight forwardness of the Finns while I was there.

AFI: You will be taking over a team that just won its first ever championship. Is that a tough situation?

Bradley: I don’t view it as a tough situation. Obviously there are expectations, but I always bring high expectations with me to any team I join. It’s cool that that winning attitude/culture is already there, I just need to join and help contribute. I’ve heard amazing things about the Steelers team and organization, so I’m excited to be apart of it.

AFI: What do you bring to the Steelers?

Bradley: I bring a huge love for the game, especially with the process of preparation in addition to an extremely competitive attitude that wants to better the guys around me.

Check out highlights from the 2020 season in the Czech Republic

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