By Parker Rogers of Europe’s Elite
It has been 136 days (at the time of writing this article) since the European League of Football (ELF) officially announced the Prague Lions as one of six new teams to be joining the league for the 2023 season. Coming in alongside five other new teams and joining in with elite company , the Lions look to cement and establish themselves as dominant contenders in the ELF . Was the Lions’ promotion to the ELF a surprise and a shock to the league and its fans? Some might argue that it was, but I don’ t believe it is as shocking as some people think. We at Europe’ s Elite predicted the Lions’ unlikely rise to the spotlight in an episode of Elite Cast: The Europe’s Elite Podcast , when Matt and I predicted that Prague would be one of the next big European cities in line to get a team in the ELF . I then went a step further and predicted that the team from Prague that would make this monumental jump from the Czech League to the European League of Football would in fact be the Prague Lions. The basis of my argument for the Lions was simple; the Lions are the oldest American Football team in the Czech Republic, and their organization has recently cultivated a strong winning culture that has solidified them as a dominant presence in the Czech League over the last five years.
However , this pairing was not one that many people would have anticipated. Using the words “football” and “Prague” in the same sentence would not seem natural to many people on the outside, but to Lions head coach, Zach Harrod, football is all he has known during his 20 year tenure in the Czech Republic’ s capital city . Coach Harrod will be the first person to admit that not many people in the Czech Republic, much less those outside of the Czech Republic, would have put a lot of stock into any whisperings of a professional American Football team coming to Prague. Sure, the Czech Association of American Football has been established for nearly three decades, but football has still been buried beneath a slough of other sports that dominate the country; sports such as soccer , ice hockey , floorball, handball, and even basketball. But for those who have found the game of football in the Czech Republic, have never once looked back .
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Lions Head Coach Zach Harrod and his starting quarterback, Shazzon Mumphrey , to discuss the jump from the Czech League to the ELF . They provided great insight into the process, the team, and the mindset of making this jump to the big leagues. “It’ s never an easy jump to make”, says quarterback Shazzon Mumphrey , “But it’s a jump that we’re excited to make, and we’re ready to show Europe what it is and what we can do”. An exciting jump for sure, one that many people across Europe are excited to see, but one that has an impact that goes far beyond the Lions organization.
I asked Coach Harrod what making this jump to the ELF meant for the game of American Football in the Czech Republic and what it meant for the future and the development of the game going forward. He was bursting at the seams with passion and pride with his response, “My kids and kids in their school are going to be able to turn on Czech TV and see Czech playing the highest level of football” Coach Harrod explained, “And that’ s going to be on Czech TV for five and six year olds to see…this has an opportunity to change the culture of American football [in the Czech Republic] completely”. Making this jump means so much more than being in the spotlight on the highest stage of Football in Europe, it’ s a jump that is going to see a ripple effect across generations and generations to come. Coach Harrod explained to me that “W e could see the next Sandro [Platzgummer] come out of the Czech Republic because he was able to get involved with American Football by seeing other Czechs playing at the highest level on his TV”. Coach Harrod is referring here to Sandro Platzgummer , an Austrian running back who has been signed to the New York Giants of the NFL for the last two seasons. The Czech Republic could see the next generation of great American Football players grow up in their own backyard. Let’s hone in on the Lions organization and team a little bit more now . With the inception of a new team in a professional league that has begun to cement itself as the highest form of American Football in all of Europe, a lot of questions will be asked of a new team. What will their team look like? Will they have enough weapons? Will they even be able to contend? Head Coach Zach Harrod and Quarterback Shazzon Mumphrey have all the answers for fans eager to hear about this new team.
“It’s all about us now”, says QB Shazzon Mumphrey , “We’re on a big stage and we’ve got to prove ourselves”. It’ s easy to see that this team has a fiery passion that emanates from all areas on the field. Will they have enough weapons? In short, definitely . Head Coach Zach Harrod says that, “I’ve never had so many weapons to work with…Now , I’ve got to find ways to incorporate them all; it’ s going to be really fun this year”. The weapons can make all the difference in this highly competitive league such as the ELF . Prague has Adam Žouželka returning to their backfilled, a team staple in their run as ČAAF champions last year . Adding another piece in their backfield, the Lions recently signed Czech running back David Kilián. In addition to Žouželka and Kilián, the Lions have Josef Janota, Lukaš Kadlec, Victor Wharton, and Aymeric Nicault to wreak havoc on opposing defenses. The Lions are building up a stout offense with some extremely talented weapons that will allow them to stretch the field. It Looking past the offense to the defensive side of the ball, the Lions have already geared up a stellar looking defense. Returning to lead the defense is defensive coordinator Dan Disch, who previously saw coaching roles at the University of Florida and a head coaching stint at The University of Southern Mississippi. Prague has signed some big name natives to their defense such as Tomáš Pazourek (outside linebacker), Jakub Smutný (defensive line), Jan Krs (defensive back), Jakub Ječný (defensive line) and rising star Daniel Feuereisel (defensive back). In addition to this already stellar defense, the Lions signed former University of Alabama defensive back, Rogria Lewis. The season hasn’ t even started yet and the Lions’ defense is already looking scary. With a tenacious defensive line and a menacing defensive backfield, offenses across the league should be concerned with Prague’ s defense.
The question of “W ill they be able to contend” now seems to be out of the picture. Everything seems to be falling into place for the Prague Lions. The players, the coaches, the chemistry , all seem to be pointed in the right direction. With a 14 week season on the horizon, the Prague Lions definitely do have their work cut out for them. A new team and a new generation of greatness has now entered into the European League of Football.