Spain: QB Glen Cuiellette brings GFL pedigree to Badalona Dracs

The typical European import journey plays out in a predictable pattern. A wide-eyed American discovers the opportunity to continue his career overseas, blindly jumping at the first opportunity presented to them. Typically, if they aren’t a marquee college name, that takes them to one of the lower European leagues, before they can set their sights on a more prestigious role in the GFL or ELF after proving themselves on the continent.

New Badalona Dracs quarterback Glen Cuiellette is familiar with the culture shock and naivety of that part of the experience. When he first discovered European football through his own personal research, he knew very little and everything from grocery shopping to public transport, to the mass of pocket change left him confused upon arrival. But unlike most, Cuiellette’s journey took a very different trajectory.

While he has now made his way to the Spanish league, the native of Mandeville, Louisiana unwittingly began his European career with one of the biggest jobs available: quarterback of the Dresden Monarchs.

“I didn’t even realize how big that was, honestly,” Cuiellette laughs, looking back.

The son of a former high school All-American, he had put together a solid college career split between the University of Tulane and Texas Southern but wasn’t high on the pro radar. Through a strong open tryout performance, he earned himself a spot at Saskatchewan Roughriders’ mini-camp in 2019, but wasn’t offered a contract. Then the Europlayer account he’d set up previously caught the attention of the Monarchs.

“I kept myself busy looking for opportunities and then all of a sudden, Dresden fell into my lap,” he recalls. “I didn’t realize how big that was to start out in Dresden, because people wait year just to get that opportunity. It just kind of happened.”

Three days later, he was in Germany, set to play in Europe’s top league.

Glen Cuiellette in action quarterbacking the Dresden Monarchs against the Cologne Crocodiles Photo: Lutz Hentschel

Of course, things weren’t quite so simple. Cuiellette was brought in mid-season, an injury replacement for quarterback Zack Greenlee. He started his first contest, then sat for two as Greenlee was provided a short leash. Ultimately, Cuiellette would start the final four games en route to a GFL semi-final appearance.

It wasn’t an easy situation for either quarterback, though they got along personally. Luckily, Cuiellette has become something of a master over the course of his career at breaking into teams as the “other guy” mid-season.

“Initially when I go in, I try to break things down to where it makes it simpler for me. First thing I go in and master the playbook. That’s all I’ve got to do, that’s all I’ve got to worry about,” he explains. “I don’t care about anybody getting along with me right out of the gate or who I’m making friends with. I just want to get in there, present myself positively, know the playbook and then just focus on my job basically.”

It paid off in Dresden, as he wound up throwing for 1,456 yards and 17 touchdowns in those five games. Confident in his abilities, Cuiellette returned home to chase opportunities stateside. The pandemic derailed much of that, but after a stint with the Indoor Football League’s Bismarck Bucks — another team where he had to battled to unseat a starter — Europe came calling once again.

This time it was the Frankfurt Universe, another once-marquee German franchise that had fallen on hard times due to poaching from the ELF. The team was in desperate need of a mid-season savior and they offered Cuiellette more than his IFL salary to be that guy. It was simply a no-brainer.

“Going in, I knew it was gonna be a tough situation. The coach said we have a lot of young guys, a lot of people left for the Galaxy and I said, ‘Okay, that’s fine.’ I just wanted to go back because I love Germany,” he says.

“It was a good situation for me to grow as a quarterback because I had to be more of a leader, adopt more roles than I normally had in the past.”

The challenges that the Universe staff described were very real. This was a team lacking talent and experience, frequently on the wrong end of a blowout. Fortunately, the team bonded tremendously off the field, making even the darkest days enjoyable.

Cuiellette threw for 723 yards and four touchdowns for the overmatched and undermanned squad, finally leading them to victory over the Marburg Mercenaries in the season finale. For an underdog team it was akin to winning a championship, somehow staving off elimination.

“That was actually very special. It was a great moment. Guys were in tears about it and I was very excited. It felt like some sort of triumphant moment in a sense,” Cuiellette says smiling.

Glen Cuiellette led the Dracs to an easy 48-3 win over the L’Hospitalet Pioners in the opening game of the Spanish season. He threw for 402 yards and 6 TDs.

Now the athletic quarterback has traded in the GFL for Spain, what many would consider a step down in competition. Cuiellette simply doesn’t see it that way and by joining the five-time defending champion Badalona Dracs, the quarterback is keeping his streak of signing with iconic European organizations intact.

What is different this time is that Cuiellette will get to be the undisputed starter from the start of the season, something he has yet to experience in his pro career. He isn’t quite content to sit back and accept that reality however, as Cuiellette insists he still felt like he had to beat somebody out for the job.

“I still had to come in and prove myself because we had [Spanish QB] Sergi [Gonzalo] and he has had a well-decorated career. He has his own awards and accolades to his name, so coming in I knew that I had to prove myself,” he argues.

“I kind of like that. I don’t like coming in and just being the guy out of the gate. I like earning my spots or my roles, but it did feel good to come in and know that a team wanted me from the beginning. Now I have a full season where I can get full stats and full games and actually see a development within myself.”

The chance to have that full season of opportunities was Cuiellette’s true motivation for coming to Spain. Pandemic enforced time-off made the 26-year-old realize just how quickly a career can end and he isn’t ready for his to be done. He wants to squeeze out every last drop, no matter what level or league.

“I never want to stay idle or stay stagnant. I want to keep playing and keep developing and keep seeing new places because I know it’s just a matter of time before my career is going to be over,” Cuiellette says. “I’m only getting older and each year is very valuable as a football player. I just want cram in as much as I can while staying healthy.”

The Dracs are back in action on Sunday, February 6 when they host the Zaragoza Hurricanes.

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.