Portræt: Stan Bedwell
Som et nyt initiativ, vil der hver uge i de kommende 12 uger komme et interview med en spiller, som enten har levet af amerikansk fodbold eller spillet på college i USA.
Der er i alt 13 spillere, der er blevet interviewet i den forbindelse. De tre områder er danskere, der har spillet som import i Europa, amerikanere der har været imports i Danmark og danskere, der har været på college. Sidder der nogle talentfulde spillere i Danmark og læser med, og lader sig inspirere af at tage skridtet videre. Foruden det er formålet at give et indblik i hvordan livet er som importspiller i et andet land eller spille på college i USA, og hvilke forventninger der stilles til en. Alle 13 spillere har glædeligt delt deres historier i håb om, at kunne inspirere andre. De amerikanske interviews er ikke blevet oversat for at undgå fejlciteringer, samtidig med, at det også vil være en mulighed for klubberne i Danmark at bruge disse interviews til potentielle imports, så spillerne kan få en idé om hvad de går ind til. Den første i serien er en amerikaner, som kommer herunder.
Stan Bedwell, what makes Denmark special for me
The first American import I will put my focus on, is a guy who has made himself quite a career out of football in Europe as a QB, OC and HC. He has been in Europe for 18 season, played or coached in nine different countries. He has played QB for 11 different teams in Europe. While he was just playing, his record is 44-11. While playing and head coaching he is 51-11 (total 95-22 record as a player). He has won five championships, three times runner up, EFAF Cup finalist, Atlantic Cup finalist. He has thrown for 36,648 yards and 438 TD. He has the European Record for most TD thrown in a game, 11. His head coaching record is 44-15, which gives him a total record of 138-37. Stan Bedwell has really made a name for himself in Europe.
He played for the Hvidovre Stars in the National League in 2010.
Stan will share some of his experiences, tell about his ups and downs during his time in Europe and what makes Denmark special for him.
Can you tell me a little about yourself? What were you during back in America when you decided to go overseas?
I’m originally from a small town of 1,000 near the Arkansas/Texas border. I was at a college in North Dakota playing football and one night I was at my head coach’s house for dinner when he started talking about a camp he had worked in Europe. Up until that point, I never really thought about people in Europe playing football. This led me to do some research and I came across Europlayers.com (which was still a quite small site at the time) and I put my film/resume not expecting to hear from any teams. Within a couple of weeks, I had a few offers to teams in Germany and France, but ultimately signed with the Basel Gladiators in Switzerland. I have always been intrigued with different cultures and with people that take the road less traveled, so it was a no-brainer for me when I had the opportunity to go to Europe, play football, and make a little money in the process. Outside of football, I’d say I’m a bit of a loner. I’ve never been the “popular” guy and never been one to make a lot of friends. I do enjoy going out and socializing, so that might seem a bit contradictory…but at the end of the day, I like to read, write, be outside in nature, and hang out with my dog. Oh! And karaoke…I love to sing and I’m not terrible at it. I’d love to start a band in the coming years as my playing career comes to an end.
What were some of the first things you were looking for, when you decided to play football in Europe?
I think more than anything, I wanted to prove that I belonged. That said, I was very “wide-eyed” when I first made the trip over the Atlantic. The flight to Switzerland was the first time I had been on a plane and I’d never lived in a city with more than few thousand people in it. It was easy to get distracted with so many people to meet and so many things to do. I regrettably did not play up to the standard I hoped for in year one and that humbled me, made me realize that I had to work hard to achieve the goals I had set for myself, and that unsuccessful season ultimately fueled all of my success for years to come.
You have been with 14 different teams during your time here. What’s the reason for that instead of staying with the same team for a couple of years?
On several occasions, I played one season somewhere and then the 2nd half of the season somewhere else. On other occasions I was actually working for two teams at the same time (for example, in 2016 I was the head coach of the Lazio Marines in Italy while simultaneously being head coach/quarterback of the Hameenlinna Huskies in Finland). When I was in Denmark, I was offensive coordinator/quarterback for the Hvidovre Stars…but I also coached the Roskilde Kings junior teams and the Avedøre Monarchs men’s team in the lower division. I was with the Kraguevac Wild Boars in Serbia for 3.5 seasons, the Hameenlinna Huskies for two full seasons, and there are several other teams that I would have happily returned to for multiple years but they did not offer me back because they thought they could find a better quarterback than me. I feel that my production has often been overlooked because of my size and a perceived lack of athleticism.
It has been a while since you played for the Stars. What brought you to Denmark back then?
I had spoke with Head Coach Karl Bates for several years and had built a great respect for him as a person. I knew of the rich history of the Kings and Monarchs, so I was very excited to be a part of the Stars and work under Coach Bates. Plus, Copenhagen was a city that I’d always been interested in and I was blown away that I would have the opportunity to live there.
You have been in many countries since you were with the Stars, which was your fifth team, which made you an experienced import player and coach. Was it possible for you to negotiate your contract then? Or was it more of a standard contract you were offered just like every other import player?
I was definitely able to negotiate a bit by that point. The previous year in Serbia, I threw for 4,400 yards and 68 touchdowns enroute to an undefeated national championship, so I had more than my share of offers at the time and I’ve never been one afraid to ask for something that I wanted.
What was the accommodation like here in Denmark? Did you live by yourself? With other imports or players?
Myself and our import TE Tate Casey (former Florida Gator) lived in a basement apartment under one of the Stars’ former player’s parent’s house. We had a small living room and a tiny bedroom with two single beds side-by-side. Tate is a huge guy that snored a lot, so after a day or two I stopped sleeping in the bedroom and stayed on the couch for the rest of our time there. It was small and compact, but Tate was a good roommate to have and the host family was very hospitable and helpful with anything we needed.
Compared to other countries you have been in, what is the Danish people and culture like?
I REALLY liked the guys on our team. I thought the Danish people were very welcoming, social, and a lot of fun to be around. I can’t think of any issues that I had with any people there…I really enjoyed hanging out with the guys at their homes or going out in Copenhagen with them. It seemed like everyone always wanted to take us somewhere or show us something. The management, coaches, players…everyone was great as a whole. The city was beautiful…I really loved everything about it.
I’m sure every team you have been with, has had something special to offer. What makes Denmark special for you?
I met a girl, Natascha, that I was in a relationship with for a year and she came back with me to America for a while. She’s one of the most beautiful and sweet people I’ve ever met, so she definitely made my time in Denmark memorable. Outside of that, just the time spent with the guys on the team. Coach Bates, Rob Scotland, Kim Schandorph, Remzi Rasmussen, Torben Storm Jensen, Jens-Christian Sander Olsen, Dian Sørensen…I could go on and on. I could name 50 more guys. They really made my time there amazing!
Have you been paid enough to focus 100% on football everywhere you have been or did you need a part time job beside football anywhere?
I’ve always made enough as an import that I didn’t have to do any other work on the side. I’m a bit of a minimalist and don’t really buy much of anything, so all money has generally been spent on food, travel, and nights out. I’ve never been remotely wealthy, but I’ve also never been poor. I get by financially.
What was your greatest experience during your time in Denmark on and off the field? And how does it compare to the rest of your time in Europe?
On the field, it was probably the playoff loss to Søllerød as crazy as that sounds. Coach Bates had just left us to go work in the Arena Football League, our roster was very thin, and we were beat up pretty bad. On the 2nd or 3rd play of the game, I tore my MCL and hobbled around on one leg the rest of the game as their import defensive end absolutely mauled me play after play. It was probably the biggest beating I’ve taken in my lifetime, but I’ve never been one to come off the field due to injury (I played the whole 2013 season, for example, with no tendons in my throwing elbow and had to have two surgeries to fix it over the next year afterward). I just loved the toughness, attitude, effort, and comradery that our team displayed that game…we came up short, but man we fought our asses off. It was also fun to see Kim Schandorph end his career with guns blazing, getting ejected from the game in the final minutes for calling the ref fat or something to that effect!
Off the field, it would probably be one of the trips that John Skjørbæk took myself and Tate on. He was an instrumental part of our team’s success, as well as the overall morale of the imports. He took great care of us. Another good memory was after every practice, Coach Bates, Tate, and myself would go to this little kebab/pizza place in Avedøre. It was amazing. Hard to compare my time with the Stars to other teams I’ve been with, because I’ve enjoyed this entire ride…but I will say that anytime people ask me my favorite city I’ve lived in, I rarely hesitate to say Copenhagen. Finland gets the nod as my favorite country, but Copenhagen takes the cake as a city. I am almost getting goosebumps writing about it now.
I’m sure every once in a while, tough times comes around. What has been some of the toughest things you have been through during you European adventure?
Obviously, injuries can dampen your well-being. Playing the 2013 with no tendons in my elbow was brutal. I’ve now had six documented concussions, which has led to on again, off again vertigo symptoms. I’ve separated both shoulders, twice each. There was the MCL injury in Denmark and a broken leg in the EFAF Cup Final in 2011. Funny thing is, I’ve only missed about 3-4 games in 14 years despite those injuries. I always took pride in playing through pain. Outside of that, I’d say the toughest thing would be when I went to places that the players or the management did not buy into my “outside of the box” philosophy as an offensive coordinator or a head coach. It makes it hard to be successful when the team has different parts pulling in opposite directions. Off the field, I haven’t really had many tough situations outside of missing things that happen back home. Last year, I lost my best friend and college roommate, Bobby, in a car accident while I was in Germany. This year (2019), my grandfather passed away while I was in Romania. That’s two people that I loved very, very much and it makes me sad to think of all the time I could have spent with them if I would have stayed in the States.
You have always been doubted because of your size 5’10” (178cm) and still put up the numbers mentioned in the introduction. What was it like to turned down because of that and not your on-field performances?
That has been something I’ve dealt with every year, every place I’ve been. I have taken winless teams to championships in my first year with them. I took a team that had five wins in four years to an undefeated championship and was the unanimous league MVP, only to have them release me after the season because they believed they could find a better QB. I had the same situation happen with a team that had three wins in three seasons. Then we went 11-1 when I was there with a 1-point loss in the championship and they did not bring me back because they thought they could do better. Needless to say, neither of those teams reached that level of success again. For the last 7-8 years, I’ve heard that I’m too old, I can’t compete at a high level, I’m too injury prone, etc. and everywhere I’ve played, I’ve led my team to success and have led the league in passing & touchdowns in all seasons but two since 2007. I definitely do not feel like I’ve gotten a fair shake with opportunities in Europe. I will never say I’m one of the best quarterbacks physically (I know I’m not even close to that), but I do think I’m one of the best at developing the guys around me and finding a way to win games. Isn’t that what we’re brought here to do at the end of the day?
What has it been like to prove every doubter wrong time after time?
I don’t really think about proving my doubters wrong, I just want to go out and do everything I can to lead my team to a victory each time I step on the field. With that said, it has been pretty sweet to play against and beat teams that did not offer me. Even better is defeating my former teams that did not offer to re-sign me after leading them to a successful season.
Most leagues in Europe goes from around January to July, which is only half of a year. What have you been up to during European offseasons?
If my season ended before mid-July, I have always came back to coach college ball in the States. Otherwise, I generally would find a team in Europe to stay with during the winter. On the rare occasion that this did not happen, I have went back to the States for a couple months and enjoyed time with family.
Do you regret anything during the time you have spent in Europe so far?
I definitely wish I would have taken nutrition and weight training more serious. I basically got by my entire career overseas with very little lifting and eating just about whatever I wanted. I suppose that could have led some teams to think that I wasn’t serious about the job, but I always felt like as long as I was producing on the field and we were winning games, they shouldn’t worry about what I do in my free time. As I’m now a bit older and near the end of my playing days, I definitely regret not doing more in that regard.
If you could change ONE thing from your time in Europe, what would it be?
I don’t think there’s anything I would change. Life is not perfect. We all have ups and downs. We all do things wrong and right. Everyone has been treated bad or unfairly at some point. That’s just the way things go. Maybe I would have gotten a dog sooner than February of this year…I’m infinitely happier having my little buddy by my side everywhere I go.
Right now you are the offensive coordinator of Rochester Community & Technical College. Are you done with Europe or is this just another offseason? If you are coming back overseas, what should a team offer to catch your attention?
I’ve already come to a verbal agreement with a team for 2020. The schedule works out well, because it allows me to return to Rochester next fall and continue building what we’re doing here. I’d say if we win the championship this season, I’d probably hang up the cleats. If not, then I might play until I’m 40. I’m too competitive to not go out on top.
Are you thinking of making a lifetime career out of football around the World?
I’m pretty open to wherever life takes me. I am blessed to have spent the past 15 years playing/coaching in Europe and would be completely open to moving there permanently if that’s how things played out. I still can’t believe I’ve got to do what I love for so long and have met so many great people along the way…it’s really been an amazing experience that I wouldn’t change for anything.