Nikolas Knoblauch: 2020’s most traveled import

As the Badalona Dracs played their first game of the 2020 Spanish League of American Football season, one standout defender on the field was German-Italian import linebacker Nikolas Knoblauch.

Knoblauch is a familiar name to fans of football in Europe. The 5’10′, 215 pound linebacker is playing for his 4th team in this crazy 2020 year. The 25-year-old had originally signed to play for the Milano Seaman (Italy) for the 2020 season before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down Italy’s season. Soon after, Knoblauch was in Denmark playing for the Triangle Razorbacks. While in Denmark the former Schwabisch Hall Unicorn made his presence felt as he made some big hits during the season, and even played running back at times. He was named Danish National League All-Star for his performance at LB during the shortened season. Due to new Covid-19 restrictions the Danish National League canceled its playoffs, leaving Knoblauch without a team once again.

“When I arrived in Milano in early February I couldn’t imagine at all that things gonna change drastically soon. 3 weeks later, practice was cancelled, the season was postponed and a long lockdown started.  I’m grateful for the opportunities I got this year. I could keep playing Football, hitting the gym and exploring new places. Unfortunately, none of the seasons ended the way I expected it but I think that I can say I made the best out of 2020.”

Knoblauch’s  break  from football didn’t last long as he jumped at the chance to join the Örebro Black Knights of Sweden for their playoff run. In Örebro, he joined two former teammates of his in Mike Gentilli and Lukas Maier from the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns. When his time in Sweden was up, Knoblauch headed south to sunny Spain to join the defending national champion Badalona Dracs.

“Life in Badalona is awesome. When I arrived stores, gym, restaurants etc. reopened and I knew I won’t need my big winter jacket this year. The Dracs are a great organization which competes also in the CEFL. They didn’t lose a game for years in Spain. The team welcomed me with open arms and I also spend a lot of time together with my team mates outside of Football.”

Nikolas Knoblauch scoring a touchdown with Team Italy Photo: Lorenzo Morbidoni

Long before he was managing self quarantines from Scandinavia to Spain, Knoblauch was a 13 year old in Böhmenkirch, Germany getting ready for his first season of football with the Kuchen Mammuts in Germany’s lower leagues. After just a few years, Knoblauch was playing with grown men.

“The team had no junior team that year, so I started to play with the seniors instead of playing 2 remaining years of U19 Football.”

Knoblauch was quick learner as in 2016 he was selected to play on the Italian National team after a successful season with the Holzgerlingen Twister in Germany. The feisty linebacker was part of a historic win for his home country’s squad when Italy beat powerhouse Austria in 2019.

“It was the historic win over Austria in Wien 2019. This win led to Italy’s first qualification to play against the top teams in the next European Championship. “

Nikolas Knoblauch in action with Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns Photo: Manfred Löffler

In 2016, Knoblauch joined the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns and helped them on a historic run of four straight German Bowl appearances and two championships. In 2018, after a phenomenal German Bowl performance that included a fumble recovery touchdown he was named German Bowl MVP.

“My all-time favorite moment was the GB win over Frankfurt Universe in 2018. It was a tight and exciting game in which I could also score on a fumble recovery TD in the 4th quarter. I was named German Bowl MVP afterwards. We were unbeaten and back to back champs.”

During that 2016-2020 stretch with the Unicorns, Knoblauch was a vital part of one of the best defenses in the German Football League. During this time he also played one season for the Ancona Dolphins in Italy leading the league with 81 tackles during that 2018 season.  Most recently for the Unicorns, the former Mammut made 73 tackles and 2 sacks in the 2019 season but his Unicorns lost the 2019 German Bowl to the New Yorker Lions 10-7.

“My first season as an Import was with the Ancona Dolphins 2018. We had a really young team but we made it to the playoffs and we improved defensively a lot compared to the previous year.”

Nikolas Knoblauch adjusting his helmet while playing for Denmark’s Triangle Razorbacks Photo: SBC Photo

Last week, the former German Bowl MVP has signed with the Stockholm Mean Machines. The Mean Machines lost in the Swedish championship earlier this year to the Carlstad Crusaders, ending their reign of back to back championships in Sweden. Knoblauch on his recent decision to return to Sweden.

“When I was playing for the Black Knights, they watched the semifinal game against Carlstad Crusaders and decided to recruit me for the next season. I really enjoyed living and playing football in Sweden this year, so I decided to do so in Stockholm after the Spanish season ends in May. Stockholm is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve seen in my life. The Swedish Superserien will end already on July 11 with the Swedish Bowl. This makes it even possible to play in the GFL or ELF as well later in the year.”

Knoblauch actions speak for his passion for the game. Self-isolating and traveling across Europe for more chances to play football and chance championships. His future goals are to keep striving for greatness on the field while he is still young.

“I turn 26 in August and I’m not done yet improving as a player from year to year. I want to play, compete and win on the highest possible level in Europe.”

 

Alex is a former professional American football player who is now studying in London. His goal writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and players and sharing different football