Rutgers grad Samuel Wretman returns to family roots playing for the Stockholm Mean Machines

You could say it was a match made years ago.

When the Stockholm Mean Machines starting left tackle, Samuel Wretman, wound up his career at Rutgers University after four years back in 2021, he wasn’t planning on continuing to play football anywhere else. He had played in the 2021 Gator Bowl but then his desire faded. He did not have the urge to continue. However, he hadn’t counted on the eagle eye, professional connections and persistence of Mean Machines head coach Fredrik Pilbäck.

“I never thought I would play football again after my last game at Rutgers which was the Gator Bowl New Year’s Day 2021. Going into 2022 I had lost the urge play again. Then I got I got it back. I was playing a little flag football when I was living in New Jersey and that feeling returned. I had been planning on moving back to Sweden this year anyway in the summer but a job opportunity and the chance to play came through coach Pilbäck and he and the team helped me out getting a job that I liked and everything worked out.”

Coach Pilbäck, who is guiding his team to its eighth straight semifinal appearance this weekend against the Tyresö Royal Crowns, set his sights on recruiting Wretman at a very early stage, even helping find him a job outside of football, and is pretty happy that he did:

“Samuel’s dad Christer played with the Mean Machines back in the day. We have followed Samuel since before he went to Rutgers and we had high expectations but Samuel for sure surpassed them. He is a great leader and teammate both on and off the field. It made it easy for us to help in the search for a job that would fit both for Samuel and the employer.”

Photo: Ben Solomon, Rutgers Athletics

The fact that it was the Mean Machines that had kept track of him and stepped up should not come as that big of a surprise since Samuel’s father had played for them many years ago.

“I knew quite a bit about the Mean Machines. I had played against their youth teams when I played in Sweden before and my Dad played for them in the early 1990s so I know a lot about them especially. I have a pretty good relationship with coach Pilbäck.”

The father factor was a key not only in playing for the Mean Machines but in simply playing the sport according to Wretman.

“My biggest influence was my dad for sure. He played football in the 80s and early 90s and he was the one who always wanted me to play football growing up. He had me going out and trying it at 12 but I hated it. I got destroyed because I was going up against some older kids. Then when I was 14, a friend of mine took me along to a practice. I loved it then and my dad definitely encouraged me when I finally said I wanted to play football. There’s no question that he has been my biggest influence for the sport.”

Still, his football journey was not exactly a straight line to success. It really wasn’t until he paid a visit to the United States that his interest really began to take hold and he realized his potential.

“I went to the US in 2014. I had played a couple of years of organized football in Sweden and got nominated to attend the IMG Academy in Florida through the IFAF World Team. I did really well and got connected to one of the coaches and I ended up going as an exchange student in a place called Rocky Mountain HS in Meridian, Idaho. I spent a year there and then did a year and a half at Cheshire Academy in Connecticut and eventually got some scholarship offers and then got an offer from Rutgers.”

Photo: Ceceilia Hakansson

Interestingly, Wretman wasn’t the only Swede studying and playing a sport at Rutgers. A couple of other football players plus a basketball player met and formed their own group.

“A year after I got to Rutgers, we signed one of my former teammates, Robin Jutwreten, He had paid a visit to Rutgers through Premier Players International. He got an offer and committed and started playing with me and the year after that we signed Anton Oskarsson through PPI as well. Then at Rutgers we had another Swedish athlete, a basketball player, Oskar Palmquist and we are all still friends to this day.”

The transition from playing “community football” in Sweden to playing in high school and college is not easy according to Wretman:

“The difference is huge although not at the high school level as much. Still there is definitely a difference, The speed of the game, the size of the players. All the fundamentals are better, better technique. But the difference between high school and college is enormous. Everything is 10 times faster, everybody is the same size and everybody is super strong.”

Whether or not he continues to play after this year, one thing is for certain. His dad will definitely be proud of him.

The Mean Machines face the Tyresö Royal Crowns in the Swedish Superserien semifinals Saturday, June 29.

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