DE Michael Dawodu, QB Leon Jackson and RB Tory Cooper pose for a photo. Schellhorn.
With spring setting in, a new football season in Europe awakes. The SWARCO Raiders, marketing teammate of The Oakland Raiders, are also preparing for the new season. Just like a year ago the reigning Eurobowl champion kicks off the new Austrian Football League (AFL) campaign on March 28.
Many new faces have joined the Tyroleans on their quest to win both the Eurobowl and the Austrian Bowl this year. Last Thursday head coach Santos Carrillo opened his four-day training camp with four new import players. The SWARCO Raiders will be led by QB Leon Jackson III, who has the tough challenge to replace AFL star and fan-favorite Jason Johnson.
"I like Leon's attitude, his competitiveness and his athletic abilities," said Carrillo about his new signal caller. "He possesses great leadership skills and has that certain swagger. He is a total different type of player and type of person than Jason Johnson. We were very successful with Jason, but I think Leon can lead us very far, too."
Jackson has help on the offensive side of the ball. Tory Cooper was added to the team to make the running game led by RB Florian Grein even more dangerous and unpredictable. Cooper also excels as a receiver, return specialist and defensive back.
On defense the SWARCO Raiders brought in two big players to shore up the front four. Defensive end Michael Dawodu was signed to make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. And defensive tackle Marquay Love brings NFL experience to Innsbruck. He is also capable of playing on the offensive line.
The coaching staff was also overhauled. The 38-year old Carrillo brought in three new coaches to help Europe's best team from the sidelines. While former offensive line coach Nicholas Johansen will work as the offensive coordinator for the very first time, the Tyroleans also signed Camron Olson (quarterbacks and receivers coach), Aaron McGinty (defensive backs coach) and Michael Messer (defensive line coach).
"I'm very pleased with the imports we were able to sign this year. We were able to build on last year's group of import players and even added some more experience and talent compared to last season," said Carrillo. "Our new coaches also bring a lot of experience in the areas we wanted to improve. As a team we will have a whole new identity. I'm really looking forward to this season."
But not only did the SWARCO Raiders go through some changes this off-season - the Austrian Football League (AFL) has a new look. This year eight teams will fight for the Austrian Bowl. Besides the established teams SWARCO Raiders, Raiffeisen Vikings Vienna, Turek Graz Giants, Danube Dragons and Carinthian Black Lion,s the league added new members in the Generali Invaders St. Pölten and the Salzburg Bulls. Also playing in the AFL this season is a foreign squad. The Collectpoint Prague Panthers from the Czech Republic's capital join the AFL as the reigning EFAF Cup champion.
Thanks to the three new teams the AFL's playing format also has changed. This season all teams will play six regular season games (three home and three away games). The four best teams will make the playoffs. Reaching the playoffs is a basic requirement for the SWARCO Raiders in order to win their first Austrian Bowl since 2006. And winning the national championship as well as defending their Eurobowl title is the goal for the upcoming season. "We want to win both championships," stated Carrillo.
Short profile of all new SWARCO Raiders import players and coaches:
Leon Jackson III | Quarterback | 6'1" (1,85m) | 189 lbs (85kg) | Utah State
Jackson (24) played for Utah State University from 2004-07. During his tenure he left his mark in the Aggies' record books. Jackson played in 42 games, throwing 21 TDs and 18 INTs. He holds USU's records for most career rushing yards by a quarterback (814 yards) and for the best completion percentage in a single season (65.4% in 2007). With a career completion percentage of 58.2 he holds second place in school history. Jackson also is among USU's top-eight players in career passing yards (4,221), career passes (656), career completions (382) and career total offensive yards (5,035). He also excelled as a punter with a career total of 176 punts for 7,043 yards and a 40 yard average. 41 of his punts were downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line. After finishing his college career Jackson worked for Utah's senator Bob Bennett, before signing with Les Argonauts d'Aix en Provence of France for the 2009 season.
Tory Cooper | Running Back | 5'8" (1,73m) | 185 lbs (84kg) | The Citadel
Cooper (25) plays running back as well as wide receiver, return specialist and defensive back. From 2003-07 to played at the Citadel military college in South Carolina. In 32 games for the Bulldogs he had 404 rushes for 1,871 yards and 27 TDs. In his senior season Cooper had a total of 22 TDs and broke the school record for rushing TDs in a season with 19. He was named to the All-Southern Conference Team. In 2006 he led the Southern Conference with 1,448 all-purpose yards. After finishing his college career Cooper played for the Thonon-les-Bains Black Panthers in France in 2009. During the regular season he gained 759 rushing yards on 75 carries and added eight TDs. He also caught 15 balls for 357 yards and four TDs. Cooper played cornerback as well. He had 31 tackles, two interceptions and recovered three fumbles. With the Black Panthers he reached the French championship game as well as the EFAF Cup final.
Marquay Love | Defensive Tackle | 6'0" (1,83m) | 307 lbs (139kg) | Houston
Love (24) was under contract with the Miami Dolphins and the New Orleans Saints of the NFL. Miami signed him to a rookie free-agent contract in 2007, but waived him after training camp was over. In 2008 he spent some time with the Saints organization. Love attended the University of Houston. From 2003-06 he played in 43 games and led the Cougars to the 2003 Hawaii Bowl and the 2006 Liberty Bowl. Love had a career total of 179 tackles (101 solo), 27 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks and excelled on special teams, too. He blocked a kick in each of his four seasons and had a career total of six blocks. He has been named to the 2003 Conference USA All-Freshman Team. Love's father, Marvin Foster, played for TCU and his uncle, Eddie Foster, played for the Cougars as well as for the Houston Oilers.
Michael Dawodu| Defensive End | 6'2" (1,88m) | 260 lbs (118kg) | Ouachita Baptist University
Dawodu (29) was a two-year starter at Ranger Junior College and was named to the All-Conference Team as an outside linebacker. From 2000-01 he played for Ouachita Baptist University. He was named to the All-Gulf South Conference 1st Team as a junior and to the All-Gulf South Conference 2nd Team as a senior. Dawodu, who was born in Ikaro, Nigeria, played for the Raiffeisen Vikings Vienna in 2007 and 2008. He won the Austrian Bowl in 2007 and lost the Eurobowl championship game to the SWARCO Raiders in 2008. In 2009 he played for the Bergamo Lions from Italy.
Camron Olson | Quarterbacks and Receivers Coach
Olson (32) comes to Austria from Southern Oregon University. He worked as a special teams coordinator and recruiting coordinator in 2008 and was the school's running backs coach in 2007. In 2006 Olson coached the running backs and special teams at Western Oregon University. From 2004-05 he was the offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator at Quincy University in Quincy, Illinois. The Gooding, Idaho, native played quarterback at Walla Walla Community College (1996-97) and at the Idaho State University (1998-2000). After graduating from ISU with a BSHE and MPE he worked as started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at ISU.
Aaron McGinty | Defensive Backs Coach
McGinty (28) was a training camp intern with the Arizona Cardinals in 2009. As the defensive backs coach at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in 2008 he was responsible for the fourth-best pass defense in NAIA. From 2002-03 McGinty played at Tuskegee University. In 2000 and 2001 he played at San Jose City College and was named to the 2nd Team All-Golden Gate Conference Team twice. In 2002 he was also named defensive back of the year. McGinty was born in Columbia, South Carolina.
Michael G. Messer | Defensive Line Coach
Messer (62) was the head coach of the Karlstad Crusaders in 2009 and led the team to an 11-1 record and second place in the Swedish championship. Prior to that he worked for several high schools. From 1999-2000 he was the defensive coordinator at Olivet College. From 1996-99 Messer worked at Missouri Valley College, holding the defensive coordinator position his last two years. From 1993-96 he was the defensive line coach and special teams coach at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Messer was the University of Dubuque's head coach for four years (1990-93). Before that he was the school's defensive coordinator for one season. He also worked as defensive coordinator at Pomona Pitzer College (1987-89), Lakeland College (1984-87) and at the Bemidji State University (1980-81) as well as for several more high schools. Messer has two sons and a grandson.