Swarco Raiders WR Marco Schneider credits coaches turned teammates for breakout campaign

At first glance, it’s hard to sell Marco Schneider as one of the scariest players in Austria.

The baby-faced receiver for the Swarco Raiders stands at five-foot-nine on a good day and still carries a youthful grin. Sit him down and his ‘aw shucks’ demeanor gives away the fact he doesn’t turn 20 until Friday, but while he barely shaves his peach-fuzz beard, he’s been slicing through defenses this season.

In five games, four in Austria and one in the CEFL, Schneider as gone from relative unknown to premier weapon. He’s hauled in 24 passes for 416 yards and seven touchdowns so far in 2021 as one of the biggest breakout surprises in Europe, but nobody within the organization is shocked at the success of a homegrown Raider who’s been around the club most of his life.

“12 years ago, I was sitting in Tivoli stadium with my grandparents, watching my cousin Andreas Hofbauer run around like crazy,” Schneider recalls of his first introduction to Raiders football.

“He was a super good player who also played for a national team. I told my parents then that I wanted to do that too.”

While it’s easy to point out Schneider’s youth in jest, many of his Raiders’ teammates have actually watched the boy grow into a man. When he first joined the men’s team in 2019 in a mostly depth role, six of the club’s active starters had coached him from the age of 12, when he was still a former soccer player with a few too many yellow cards to his name.


Photo: Swarco Raiders

Those relationships have evolved over time and coaches have become teammates while staying mentors. Schneider still has a photo of his 12 year old self looking up to receiver Adrian Platzgummer for guidance, he has another from a game six years later where he’s still looking up at the veteran.

“When I was young and he was my coach, he would talk different, like he was a coach. In 2019, when I was coming up to him, he was talking to me like a normal friend, just wanting to help me out on the field. Not saying ‘do this’, but ‘try doing this,’” Schneider says of the interaction.

“I think maybe that’s better. He’s not really coaching my techniques anymore, just saying ‘try it like this, that’s how I do it and maybe it works better for you.’”

Other coaches changed his career trajectory entirely. Once a undersized dual threat quarterback, it was current Raiders starter Sean Shelton who made the call to move him to receiver at the U18 level, creating a new weapon for himself in the process. It’s that relationship that Schneider values most highly, a chemistry created with his old coach that has translated directly on to the field.

“Everyone knows that if a slot receiver runs the speed out, sometimes they get blown up by the cornerback. When I play with Sean, I just feel so safe,” Schneider explains.

“When he’s putting the ball on my inside shoulder or outside shoulder, he wants to tell me you’ve got to turn this way because if I turn the other way, it’s going to hurt. Sometimes we don’t even have to speak to each other. If we have some gap to hit in the coverages, we just look at each other and I know he wants me in the next window.”

That’s exactly where Schneider wants to be, in the slot at the right hand of the man he now calls ‘Seanie’. How long he remains there is an open question, however. While his small stature meant Schneider never attracted attention from US colleges, his name is already sparking interest from North American pro leagues looking to develop Global talent.

Just this month, Italian offensive lineman Max Pircher was claimed by the Los Angeles Rams as part of the NFL International Player Pathway Program, joining New York Giants running back Sandro Platzgummer as the second former Raider to make the jump in as many years. It’s a goal that still feels foreign to Schneider.

“I never really thought about it, trying something like the Pathway Program or getting to the States,” he admits honestly.

“I know a lot of my friends are in the States now playing in some college or university, even players I played with six years ago, and they say ‘come over to us, it’s super nice here’. The problem is I’m super small and I think that size and numbers always matter when going in that direction. I just want to play football though, whether it’s here or somewhere else.”

Photo: Swarco Raiders

In the meantime, he remains focused on the Raiders season. He’s currently completing his mandatory military service in conjunction with the Heeressportzentrum program, allowing him to train as a full-time professional.

The results on the field speak for themselves, but this week poses a particularly difficult challenge. The Raiders take on the rival Dacia Vienna Vikings in the CEFL semi-final, a rematch of an overtime loss earlier this season where Schneider admits his team got out-physicaled and failed to execute.

The receiver himself was held to just 51 yards in his most pedestrian outing to date, but he feels his team is ready for revenge. After being thrust into the fire by injury early on, a young Raiders core is now battle-tested.

“Our young players, they had to step up. Now we’ve had three games played as a group to feel more comfortable,” Schneider says. “The connection with Sean is better. Our o-line is understanding better. Now they talk more, so there may be less mental mistakes.”

No young player has stepped up more than Schneider and he will continue to be the key to Raiders success going forward. It’s a big ask for the pint-sized youngster but he doesn’t shy away from the role. While the world has now been introduced to Marco Schneider, they have yet to see his full potential.

“I can’t grow more inches, but I can take advantage of other things,” he smiles knowingly.

That’s enough to give any defense nightmares.

Watch Marco Schneider and the Swarco Raiders take on the Dacia Vienna Vikings in the CEFL semifinals, Saturday, May 29 at 4 pm CET (16:00, 10:00 am ET) on AFI.tv.

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.