Veteran Imports: Shane Jackson, QB

Photo: Sabine Sykora
I have been an Import in Europe for the past 5 seasons. I have played in 2 different countries (Denmark and Germany). In my experience of playing, hands down Germany is the best place I have played. The players and coaches benefited from NFL Europe and having so many American Military bases, they really adapt to the game and actually more times than not know how to play the game THE RIGHT WAY..

Why becoming an import player?
Football is the biggest sport in the States. Every child grows up and aspires to play in the NFL. Theres only 53 men on the roster of 32 teams. You do the math? As for Arena, I never really got into it. Loss interest the older I got. So the outlet from America is to become an import. Americans are imports in Canada as well is every other country, so it basically the next option for good football competition. 

An import is an Ambassador for not only himself, but the club he plays for and the Country he comes from. The job does have its pressures, and its not for everyone. Your asked to do so much on and off the field that some people can be drained out fast. You must understand the way of life in which you are going into. Do the research on the people and place, and be willing to adjust and basically have a open mind to everything is the best advice I can give. Dont forget, these teams pay you.

Picking the right team
When finding a team, it's a struggle to be honest. From playing and coaching in a few countries I have, I have found it easiest to look into the teams and city that have contacted you or you have reached out too. You're leaving everything you know to something completely different. From language, to food, to way of living, to driving, and to some degree football. 

In the process of searching the best thing is to ask ask ASK questions. Try to get the info of previous imports to reach out to them. Hearing from other imports about their time there helps a lot with the decision process. 

Best experience I had by far was my first year in Denmark with the Kronburg Knights. Not only was I treated like family but I made life long friends, which I still visit a few times a year to this day. My worst experience was with the Lübeck Seals in Germany. This team had no idea what they were getting themselves into. They had structure but the issues and problems were delegated to 1 person, who also was 1 of the best players on the team. The electricity in our flat had been turned off multiple times without even an appearance from the top board members, just many others like that. The football aspect was great, the guys played their butts off and we did special things together, coaches were some of the best I had in Europe, just the business side of Lübeck was not in order to have serious imports.

Domestic talent
In my opinion from coaching players, the most talented players in Europe are in Austria. The seriousness at which this country takes football is right below America and Canada but just a step above Germany. They changed the import laws because the talent of the Austrian players has become that good. 

The place eager to learn, in my coaching and playing experiences is Denmark. The kids and players in this country are like a sponge. In my time there Denmark showed the most football out of any country outside of America and Canada on TV. The kids love the game and want to learn. Many kids i have coached there have made their way to the States to play High School football. As of now, I have at least 4 kids I coached attending High school in America and playing football. 

Germany is the best talent I have played against. As I said, because of the heavy American football influence there some of these guys have been playing for 10+ years. Others have fathers who played and grew up in the game.

Import rules
I feel different than most about the Austria situation. I think it's amazing. The reason I came was to spread my knowledge of the game as well as being able to play. From watching first hand and losing to them in the European championships in 2008 I knew they were close. They have great coaches and great connections to NFL teams. Slowly becoming a professional league in itself. Only issue is parody, 3-4 teams depending on the season are fighting for the playoffs, but its mainly 2 playing for it. 

As for Poland, I dont believe the Polish guys are good enough to get it done. An American can take over a game and win it by himself in Poland. Just think they need more coaches and players to help there, but if you don't have the money then you miss out. So it hurts the lower part of the league because they don't get the coaching or teaching the richer teams get.

What's football in Europe missing?
Protection of import players is something I would like to see. Having people leave their lives and not stick to an agreement occurs often in Europe. There are stories every year. Some get reported and some don't. I also think teams need to focus on building football players, not just buying championships. Some of these places have great potential but the teams spend on players instead of coaches to improve. I also would like to see more European guys taking the risk and playing in Different countries. Seeing a different face and hearing a different voice can really elevate players trying and willing to learn.