NY native Jake Sisson ‘stranded’ in Sweden during coronavirus pandemic

When Jake Sisson landed in Sweden earlier this year to play for the Örebro Black Knights, he was looking forward to his second year of playing football in Europe.

The 23-year-old Sisson, 6’0″, 220 pound native of Jamestown, New York, who played at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, spent the 2019 season playing in Serbia for the Kragujevac Wild Boars last year, helping the team to win a title. He says he thoroughly enjoyed his experience but was just looking for a change when he signed to play for Örebro. He knew Black Knights head coach Tim Speckman and wanted to play for him. And he also wanted a chance to play in a more established league like the Swedish Super Series.

Then COVID-19 hit.

He and the Black Knights had been practicing right up until the beginning of April in full pads when everything was shut down.  However, Speckman had to return to his family in Germany. Sisson was at a crossroads. As the coronavirus crisis was gaining momentum, he had to make a choice. Stay in Sweden or head home to New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. 

“Actually it was not that tough a decision to stay in Sweden. It seemed safer to stay here. New York was starting to really get bad at that time.”

Photo: Jonas Domfors

Sisson said that surprisingly his family was not against the idea:

“I am the youngest of three brothers but my mom thought it was the smartest thing to do. The coronavirus was really hitting its peak then at home.”

Micael Jönsson, general manager of the Black Knights men’s team, virtually insisted Sisson stay while the club paid for his housing and food, despite the fact that without games there was no revenue:

“For humanitarian reasons more than anything else, we just could not tell him to go home to the hotbed of the virus.”

Sisson wasn’t alone. Black Knights teammate Alan Orsetti from Italy also made the same choice and only went home recently after waiting out the severe outbreak of the virus in his home country.

So since late March, Sisson has been “holed up” in the university town of Örebro, located midway between Stockholm and Gothenburg in south central Sweden. And even though Sweden has not had a strict lockdown, things are still pretty quiet as the university has been closed.

“Örebro has been quieter than normal that’s for sure. I’ve been able to do some exploring around here and with the gyms open I have been working out.”

Photo: Jonas Domfors

With non-contact practices now allowed in Sweden, Sisson has been able to get guys together for some throwing and quarterback drills a couple of times a week. And most importantly, he has been able to stay in contact with Speckman.

“It’s almost like preseason, working out outdoors. My teammates have been fantastic and we’ve been trying to get things going on extra days as well. I talk tto coach Speckman as often as I can to see if there is anything he wants us to do.”

With the Swedish federation planning on having a season starting in late August, Sisson’s decision may well be the best thing for the club and for him. There is no need for a period of adjustment. He has had plenty of time to get to know his teammates and Sweden.

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.