Tom Keegan: Former Lawrence High quarterback playing for pay in Germany
photo by: Nick Krug
Another class of University of Kansas students will walk down the hill May 13. The lucky among them then will stuff all their belongings, including the money they have saved, into a backpack and will head for Europe, delaying their entry into the real world.
A hostel here, an Airbnb there and few nights spent sleeping on trains will help stretch the Euros and make the trip last a little longer.
And then there is the case of Brad Strauss, recent graduate of William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., where he spent the final two years of his collegiate student-athlete experience as starting quarterback after transferring from Northwest Missouri State.
Strauss, former standout quarterback for Lawrence High, need not sleep on any trains. His employer will furnish him lodging, free of charge. He didn’t have to save up to purchase a flight. That, too, was handled by his new workplace. Meals and a company car are part of the deal as well. On top of all that, he said he’ll be paid a little more than $1,000 a month to play quarterback for the Cologne Crocodiles of the German Football League, GFL for short.
The season opener is April 21, which explains why Strauss stopped by William Jewell’s spring practice this week to “knock some rust off” his right arm. He said the season ends in September.
“But I plan to stay a few weeks before coming home,” Strauss said. “I heard Oktoberfest is pretty fun.”
Oh, to be young again.
Strauss, 23, went on a school-sponsored trip to Europe last summer and said he “really loved Germany.”
A GFL coach fell in love with the Hudl highlight video that Strauss cobbled together of himself and posted, a biography and statistical data on europlayers.com, where the Crocs coach discovered him.
Strauss plans to supplement his income by instructing at youth football camps and clinics run by the Crocodiles.
“American football’s pretty big in Germany from what it sounds like,” Strauss said. “There are a lot of kids interested in the game.”
(Bradley, don’t forget your Lawrence roots. If some youngsters show serious potential, slip them gear emblazoned with the Jayhawk logo — especially if they’re really, really big and show a penchant for snapping).
It all came together quickly for Strauss.
Crocodiles coach Patrick Kopper made contact with him Friday, they talked on the phone Sunday, the contract arrived Wednesday and he’ll be leaving for Germany on a jet plane this coming Tuesday; doesn’t know when he’ll be back again.
“He said he did a bunch of research, watched film, pulled up some old interviews, said he liked what he saw in the interviews and said he thought I would be a good fit athletically and as a teammate,” Strauss said.
That’s a pretty darn good scouting report from a distance of 4,652 miles.
I don’t need to see the video to know what’s on it: Strauss taking a broken play, fixing it on the fly and turning it into a bigger gain, with either his feet or arm, than had the play been executed to perfection. It’s what he did at Lawrence High and William Jewell. And I know what’s on the interviews, too: he talked all about the great things his teammates did.
The roster consists of German players and “five imports,” Strauss said. “I’m the fourth American and I believe there is a player from Spain.”
The GFL uses the rules of American college football.
Now that Strauss’ high school coach, Dirk Wedd, is retired, perhaps he can take a trip to Germany to soak up some culture, such as a Cologne Crocodiles football game.
“I’ll hook him up with some tickets,” Strauss said.
Then the quarterback quickly added what he meant, lest the coach misunderstand him.
“Tickets to the football game, not tickets for the flights,” he said.
Strauss has a sweet deal for a college graduate who wants to see more of Europe, but he’s not making NFL wages. If his old ball coach wants to watch him play, he’s going to have to dig into his pension to make it happen.