UT player gets kicks in EuropeWritten by | |
Sometimes your dreams lead you to strange places. Other times they lead you to Hamburg, Germany.
Former University of Toledo standout Todd France has a simple dream of playing in the NFL and it’s leading him around the world.
”I’m 25-years-old now and I’ve spent the last three-and-a-half years of my life pursuing this, so I think anything else would be disappointing,” France said in an interview from Hamburg. ”I’m not going to make a career out of playing in the Arena League or Canada, I’ve got better things to do than that.”
His NFL Europe season with the Hamburg Sea Devils has just ended, and France took his big foot and planted it squarely into the record books. He converted 23 of 30 field goals (the longest a 54-yarder) and 15 of 15 PATs to lead the league with 86 points – a new NFL Europe record. He also set a league record for field goals made.
A unique league rule, where field goals over 50 yards count as four points, has helped France show off his leg.
”Fortunately, I have a coach who isn’t afraid to try the long field goals,” France said. ”It makes it more exciting for me, knowing that we’re within field goal range when we get the ball near the 35-yard-line. Pooch punts just aren’t that fun to watch.”
A Northwest Ohio native, France graduated from UT following perhaps the most distinguished career of any MAC kicker (four-year starter; Mid-American Conference career leading scorer among kickers; nominated for Lou Groza Award). His journey to the NFL began when the Minnesota Vikings signed him, then cut him. He played a season for the Rhein Fire, then the New York Giants signed him. Then cut him. He was picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and promptly sent overseas for a second stint, this time with the Sea Devils.
France, who studied German in high school and ”can speak on simple terms with most people on the street,” has adapted well, but had to go cold turkey on a number of favorites.
”Back in the States, I eat cereal for breakfast every morning, but the milk is a little suspicious over here. They let it sit out for hours at a time and think nothing of it. I’ve been eating a lot of pastrami and cheese sandwiches for breakfast,” he said. ”What I miss most is ranch dressing. All the salad dressings over here are yogurt-based.”
Still, Germany in the spring has its charm. These include the Autobahn on which France has driven at speeds up to 180 km/h (112 mph). ”Even then, cars were flying by,” he said.
Local fans are still trying to comprehend American football, he notes. ”Fans are allowed to blow whistles during the game, and lot of times they’re making as much noise as possible when our quarterback is trying to call the plays out on the field. They also like to chant, ’Defense, Go!’ Even when we’re on offense.”
France came to the league for one thing: ”My goal is to play in the NFL. I think I just need a team to give me a chance and I’ll make the most of it.”