Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants duo Darrell Adams and Conor Miller soar to top of Austrian stat board

The Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants are on a roll in the Austrian Football League and the combination of former NFL receiver Darrell Adams Jr. and quarterback Conor Miller has turned the Giants into contenders.

Adams leads the AFL in receiving yards and Miller is the number two passer. That’s not how the season started even though it was supposed to.

To put it simply, the Giants opened the year with a whimper. The season opener was against the Danube Dragons who seemed to expose their every weakness.  Adams Jr. and Miller had been set to be the main attractions for the Giants, but after all the hype the duo came out flat and Graz lost the game 35 – 16. Graz seemed to disappear off the radar in the weeks that followed and were expected to finish the league in the bottom half of the table.

Fast-forward six weeks, remove one head coach and we’re looking at the most dominant QB/WR duo in the Austrian league. Going into week five the 6’3, 225 pound Adams has used his superior size and speed to amass 538 yards and seven touchdowns in just four games, over 200 yards clear of the next man down the table; while Miller has thrown for 1,047 yards and 12 touchdowns. It’s no surprise that the recent dominant performances by the two imports runs parallel with the success the Giants have had as a whole. Graz’s schedule did ease up after week-two but the defense now has a new intensity about it, letting in only 14 points in the last two games compared to the 80 points in the first two. 

This success may have come as somewhat of a surprise as the unexpected dismissal of head coach Martin Kocian after only two games led those around the league to question the stability of the organization. But the team bounced back with head coaching responsibilities shared between offensive and defensive coordinators Daniel Schönet and Brandon Gorsuch.

Darrell Adams fending off Danube Dragons defender Photo: K&K Photography

Adams explains the transition from week one to week five:

I would say it’s been totally different. As far as the atmosphere, the environment at practice, the level we’re competing at, even in practice, it’s been more intense and up tempo, and the guys are competing. So I think just the mindset has changed. I don’t want to say we were complacent before, but it was just like, if we lose then we’ll get them next week, but there wasn’t really any drive or motivation behind it and I feel like our new coaching staff and the leaders on the team have stepped into that role.

Week one promised something special with Adams and Florida Atlantic (DI) Alumni Miller, but there was something missing. Miscues and frustration seemed to define the relationship.

Miller speaks on the catalyst of change for the pair:

The catalyst has really just been the work we’ve put in together. We’re watching film together three or four hours every day with Coach Brandon, whether it’s our film of opponents. It’s really valuable to see something together and for me being able to tell Darrell how I want him to run a certain route against a certain coverage or him being able to tell me how he likes certain balls thrown. Between that and going out on the field in the mornings during our bye weeks and working the routes, we’ve gotten really comfortable with each other and established a great chemistry. 

Graz QB Conor Miller throwing a pass Photo: Robert Sommer

The connection the two have has fermented into a weapon that should leave any opponent wary – the ability to score at any moment from any point on the field. Graz’s opponent this weekend is, however, arguably one of the best teams in Europe, period. The Dacia Vienna Vikings have just come off an 82 – 7 victory over Serbia’s Kragujevac Wild Boars in their Central European Football League tournament first rounder after having defeated Austrian powerhouse the Swarco Raiders last month. Adams feels this may play to the Giants advantage:

They’re top-dogs right now. And we have a mindset, we’re underdogs. And so we have a reason to fight, no matter if we just came off a win or a loss it doesn’t matter, we still feel like we have something to prove. And I never feel like it was good enough. And so no matter what, regardless of the stats last week, I’m not focused on that. It’s like how can I improve and help us get that win.

And so the mindset is just to be dominant and just to break the will of our opponent. They’re a good team and stuff like that. But I think we’re starting to get a certain confidence and swagger about ourselves where we know we can play with these big teams, is just about executing every chance we get.

The Vienna Vikings are without a doubt favorites to win this week five matchup, but they will be naive to think that they do not have to worry about the two most dangerous offensive weapons in Austrian football. Graz have been sneaking their way towards excellence since the mid-point of the season. Do not be surprised if it’s still anybody’s game come halftime this Saturday.

Make sure to watch the game on at 1 pm CEST.


Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who works in journalism and communications in the third sector. Daniel began playing football for the London Warriors and Team Great Britain and has since played across Europe.