New Yorker Lions boost defense with linebacker Jonathon Rollins

The German champs replace the departed David Guthrie with solid new defensive star

Originating from Miramar, Florida, Jonathon Rollins shores up the pass defense in the absence of Guthrie, who will not play for the Lions in 2017 due to personal reasons. However, the 5’11” (1.80 m) 198 lb (90 kg ) Rollins is by no means a Plan B.

Rollins began his football career as a linebacker and strong safety at Everglades High School, where he received attention from colleges like Miami, Florida Atlantic, UMass and Western Kentucky, and the University of Western Illinois who offered him a scholarship, which he eventually accepted.

In four years for Leathernecks (Missouri Valley, FCS D-1) is Rollins was part of the conferences best pass defenses and played against foes like the Wisconsin, Northwestern and North Dakota State.

In 45 games for the Western Illinois Rollins recorded 245 tackles, including 10.5 for loss, three sacks and four interceptions. Despite his efforts, he did not receive an invitation to an NFL or CFL team.

However, through the friendship of Würzburg Panthers head coach Martin Hanselmann and the then head coach of the Western Illinois Bob Nielson the American joined the Panthers for the 2016 playoffs, helping the club win the Bavarian League, and thereby securing promotion into the Regionalliga Süd.

After a conversation with New Yorker Lions head coach Troy Tomlin Jonathon Rollins was on board to help the Lions in 2017. “I had a great time in Würzburg last year and helped the team win a championship,” said Rollins. “I want to repeat this in 2017 in the GFL at the highest level and help the Lions win their 12th national championship and the fifth EuroBowl.”

American Football International caught up with Rollins ahead of the Lions Big6 season opener against the Amsterdam Crusaders on April 22 in the Netherlands.

American Football International: How did you come to sign with the New Yorker Lions?

Jonathon Rollins: Coach Tomlin reached out to me around late February letting me know him that his staff was looking for an American defensive back and they liked what they’ve seen from my college highlight tape out of Western Illinois University. A couple of phone calls later he made it clear that he wanted me to be apart of the Lions.

AFI: We know you played in Germany last season. How did you move from that the Würzburg Panthers to the New Yorker Lions?

Rollins: Coaches Hanselmann and Myers from my previous team in Würzburg were able to pass my highlight tape over to the Lions coaching staff during the off-season.

AFI: What are you looking forward to about playing with the Lions in 2017?

Rollins: What excites me the most about this season with the Lions is going through the process of winning another championship for the Lions organization. I’m on a team who has had a lot of success in the past and it would be an honor to help contribute to the success of this organization.

AFI: How do you find American football in Europe? Do you know about it before last season?

Rollins: American football in Europe is exciting to me because it’s very competitive and it’s all for the love of the game. It’s great to see how far football has come and how serious people take it over here. I was first informed about European football during my senior year of college but didn’t really know how big any of the leagues were until I arrived this year. It’s exciting to be over here especially with the Lions.

AFI: What do you think you will bring to the field for the Lions in 2017?

Rollins: My goal is to dominate and just to play with a chip on my shoulder. I want to bring a lot of energy and passion for this 2017 team. I plan on adding speed to a very fast defense already as well as being physical in the secondary. Our goal is to dominate this year and I plan to work hard every week to make that come true.

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John McKeon is a former professional and collegiate American Football player and coach now living and working in New York. His goal is to spread news, information, and opinion on the global growth of the sport he loves.