Spain: QB Joey Bradley signs with L’Hospitalet Pioners, discusses football life in Europe

The L’Hospitalet Pioners in Spain’s top league, LNFA, Liga Nacional de Fútbol Americano, have signed Joey Bradley as their quarterback for the 2020 season.

The Pioners, who won the Spanish title in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, are returning to the top league after a one year hiatus.

The 29 year old, 6’1″, 185 lb Bradley from Seattle (Issaquah), Washington, spent part of the 2016 season and the entire 2017 and 2018 seasons with Poland’s Gdynia Seahawks after guiding the Lisboa Devils to back-to-back Portuguese championship titles.  The Seahawks were runner ups in Poland in 2017 and reached the semifinals in 2018.  He had signed to play in Finland in 2019 but a rift with the head coach forced him to leave the team. He was nominated for the Harlon Hill award at the University of New Haven (Div. II) after throwing for 2,652 yards and 20 touchdowns in his senior year.

In a fascinating interview with American Football International, Bradley discusses life in Europe, his reasons for leaving the Wasa Royals last season and much more.

AFI: This will be your fifth year in Europe and you have won 2 championships, both in Portugal. You have also played in Poland and had signed to play in Finland but had to leave the team. Why now the move to Spain?

Bradley: For whatever reason, I’ve had my eyes and intentions set on playing in Spain the past couple years, but it just never panned out with any of the teams there. Fortunately this year, everything fell right into place, better than I could have imagined. I have come to realize that I really enjoy and vibe well with the culture and people of Southern Europe; it feels like home to me. I also like the fact that the winters here are incredibly mild.

AFI: What caused you to change your mind in 2019?

Bradley: To be blunt, I chose to leave because I didn’t agree with the direction our head coach was taking us, as a team, or as an offense. We could not see eye to eye and I felt it was best for the team not to have the starting quarterback who was completely committed, and the head coach who took a vacation just before the season started, at odds during the season so I left. It was a very challenging decision, but an incredible learning opportunity. I was disappointed because I really enjoyed Vaasa and the guys on the team were great; not to mention, it’s probably the best salary I’ll receive while playing in Europe, but I had to do what was best for me personally at the end of the day.

AFI: How did you originally find your way to Europe and Portugal in 2016?

Bradley: That’s a helluva question. To keep it short, I knew that I wanted to play in Europe once I was done with college, and had been in contact with a couple German and Austrian teams, where I had initially planned on going. Once I graduated in June, I was living at home and working a really crappy job that left me wondering, “what am I doing with my life?” This combined with a failing relationship put me into a bad place mentally. I knew that if I went to Germany, I wouldn’t leave until March, but the Portuguese season started in late October. So essentially Portugal provided me the fastest way out of my situation at the time, so I took it. It turned out to be one of the greatest decisions of my life thus far.

AFI: Can you compare the football from the different countries?

Bradley: Everywhere is similar in the sense that the leagues are top heavy. But it’s tough to compare due to import rules being different in each country, so I’ll compare what I thought about the domestic players in each country. Overall, I think Poland has some of the best domestic players in all of Europe, especially inside the box. Finland has the highest football IQ and players are really coachable, but since so many imports are allowed, there aren’t a lot of Finnish playmakers. I know that Portuguese football is looked down on by everyone in Europe, but I have been most impressed by their skill positions as a whole; they just lack the size and technique with the OL/DL. This is all generally speaking of course, as there are exceptions to all of these things I just said.

AFI: You will be living in your fourth different country. Can you compare the cultures?

Bradley: In Portugal, people are more open and friendly, and life is more laid back. I found that Polish and Finnish culture was more closed off, unless they are drinking, then they are too open- haha. I still enjoyed Polish and Finnish culture, but I vibe more with the Portuguese culture.

AFI: What has been your most memorable experience so far?

Bradley: My time in Lisbon was truly special. Obviously when you win back to back championships it’s going to be memorable, but just the brotherhood of that team made me feel like I was in high school again; everyone knew each other and hung out together outside the field. If I had to pinpoint one game it would have been our victory in the Champions League over Bogazici Sultans from Turkey. They were a better team than us, but we were the better team that day. It was also the first international win for a Portuguese team so that made it even more cool. I don’t think a lot of guys on our team thought we could win before the game and to see their faces afterwards was something I’ll always remember; that was also one of the most fun nights I’ve had in my career in Europe- haha.

AFI: What do you bring to the Pioners?

Bradley: First and foremost I bring a great attitude that wants to help the team succeed in the present and future. I want to connect and make life-long friendships as much as I want to win, which is a lot. As I have been QB/OC my entire career, I bring a skillset of being able to play at a high level and also coach guys up. As a quarterback, I would say my leadership, decision making, quick release and arm ability are my primary strengths.

AFI: What are you most looking forward to this season?

Bradley: I’m looking forward to just playing again. Not playing in 2019 sucked to be honest, especially because I feel like I was throwing the ball as well as I ever have. I’m also looking forward to being apart of building something special for the future. Living in Barcelona will be cool too 🙂

American Football International is your source for news and updates about American Football outside the United States!