Well-traveled veteran QB Clark Hazlett has taken his game to Australia

Through American football, Clark Hazlett has been able to play the sport he loves and experience new cultures in several countries all over the world.  In just a few short years since leaving Linfield University in Oregon, the quarterback has played in France, Czech Republic, Mexico, and Australia, where he played most recently with the UNSW Raiders in Sydney

AFI caught up with Clark to discuss his journey, his time in Australia, and his plans for the future.

AFI: How did you first start playing football abroad and what has made you continue to this day?

Clark: I first started playing football overseas after my first head coach from France discovered me on YouTube.  He then got in touch with me through Europlayers.  What has made me continue playing to this day is that I’ve been able to build a brand around shining light on what it’s like being an international athlete playing American football in different countries overseas through my YouTube channel.  This was something that started back when I started playing in college in 2017, and I’ve been able to continue documenting my journey and helping grow the sport of American football in different countries through social media and marketing, as well as helping brand different teams and leagues all over the world.

I never knew about the opportunities to play overseas growing up, and my dream was always to play in the NFL like every kid out there, and I want to continue to keep fulfilling my childhood dream of playing as long as possible in as many countries as possible, and to continue being a role model for the next generation to show them that they can dream about something that they didn’t know was possible, which was playing football in other countries after their college days come to and end.

Winning Australia’s Warath Bowl in 2023 was a crowning achievement in a career that has taken Clark Hazlett around the globe

AFI: From your time playing in several different countries, what have you learned about the sport of football as it is played outside of the US?

Clark: I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned about football outside of America after playing in different countries would have to be that it’s more than football.  The game has grown all over the world, but being part of different communities in different cities in different countries,  getting to experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, sharing the love for the game, being an ambassador of the sport, helping grow it by teaching, and bringing guys together has to be one of the most fulfilling things that I’ve experienced this far in life.  

Playing down here in Australia, I really was playing for the love of the game.  They took care of my accommodations, but there was no salary like typical leagues overseas in Europe, Mexico, etc.  So I’ve learned to fall back in love with the game while playing in these different countries.  I know there’s so many people back home that have this dream to do what I do, and I’m grateful for it, and I’m going to continue to document my experience and share that experience with anybody who follows along on social media.

Clark Hazlett playing for the Vysocina Gladiators in the Czech Republic. Photo: Lukas Kenji Vrabel.

AFI: How would you compare the football scene in Australia compared to the football scene in the other countries you’ve played in previously?

Clark: I think Australia is very unique compared to other countries that I’ve played in.  What makes Australia so unique is that players are not paid on a salary; they get help with some accommodations, but when you’re living down here and playing football in Australia, you’re playing for the love of the game.  Most guys have to get work, which they’re provided with a working visa to do so.  Thankfully, I’m able to work online, so I’m able to support myself.  

Being an American, Australia is America flipped upside down, in my opinion.  There’s so many similarities to back home that have been amazing to experience, but it’s also difficult at the same time, like driving on the other side of the road.  So it’s nice to be reminded of home, and being in Sydney, I never knew how amazing it is to live in Sydney.  It’s great being close to the beaches and experiencing Australian summer (which is around when the football season takes place).  It’s great to enjoy good weather and good football, live in a city with almost six million people, and experience a culture that is similar to home, yet so different at the same time.  I’ve fallen in love with Australia, and I’d love to come back here and continue to grow the sport.

For football, there’s a lot of talent down here in Australia because of the rugby influence, so the league has a lot of room for growth.  Because football (or gridiron, which is what they call it down here) is going to be joining the Olympics, it’s looking to continue to grow in the future.  The one thing that Australia needs is better coaching and outside influence and more import players like me to come down and help grow the game and be ambassadors for the sport.

Also, because they speak English down here, it’s interesting how much more I’ve been able to connect with my teammates and coaching.  Whereas everywhere else in the world, most of the guys do speak English, but there is a little bit of a language barrier with some players.  What makes the scene in Australia a little more unique than other countries is that we all speak the language.  That’s been one thing that’s stood out to me.  I’ve been able to build bonds and connections with my teammates better here than in any other country I’ve played in (besides America).

Playing for the Touraine Pionniers in France

AFI: What was your favorite part of last season with the Raiders?

Clark: My favorite part of last season with the Raiders definitely would have to be winning the GNSW championship.  Overall, I fell back in love with the game after playing with the Raiders last year.  

Starting in 2023 I was playing in the LFA for the Gallos Negros.  Our team started out 0-5 on the season, and I eventually got cut, and then two weeks later, I was traded to the Dinos de Saltillo, and got a little playing time but ultimately served as the backup quarterback.  We lost in the national championship in June.  That’s when I moved to Australia in July, and I’ve been living here ever since (for about 8 months).  This is the longest I’ve ever lived in a country playing for a specific team.  

Playing for the Gallos Negros in Mexico’s LFA

Like I said, because they speak English here, I’ve been able to create bonds and connections better than any other team I’ve played for.  My guys really bought into the culture that my head coach, Andrew Brundu, established with this team.  We won the first championship in almost twenty years, and I could not be more thankful for the opportunity.  And it’s really a family at the Raiders, and that’s why I’m wanting to come back and play for the team next year, and try to win back-to-back championships.

AFI: What’s your favorite part about being an American football player in Australia, or just living in Australia in general?

Clark: My favorite parts of living in Australia would definitely have to be the weather, the beaches, and getting the chance to live in a big city like Sydney.  There’s so many different walks of life, so many different people to meet, and being an American and having that accent definitely does have its perks and benefits.  Growing up, I never really knew how beautiful and amazing Australia was, and I don’t know if that’s being an American and not being geographically educated to the best I could’ve been, but I love Australia and I love to see how much the game is growing.  

There’s so much talent down here, and I think the thing that’s holding the talent back is that there’s not enough ambassadors of the game, like imports and coaches from America, to help grow and elevate the game to the next level.  But it’s starting to happen, and next year I think the leagues here are going to continue to make strides.

Off the field, there’s the fact that Australians have a big love for country music, and my goal this year when I return is to start playing some country music gigs and shows all throughout Sydney, and at that point that’s when I’m really going to be living my dream of playing football internationally while also simultaneously making music and singing country music. 

AFI: After winning the Warath Bowl in December, what’s next for you in your football career?

Clark: Right now I’m currently in the recruiting process phase.  I will not be returning back to the LFA or Mexico in 2024, so it’s looking like I’m going to be making a trip back out to Europe for a season; I don’t know exactly where yet.  Like I said, my plan is to return back to Sydney in September to play another season with the Raiders.

A current student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carter played football in high school and has been a lifelong avid football fan.