By Gabriel Brison-Trezise
In January, Brett Williams ’13 capped off his extraordinary final collegiate football season by signing a professional contract with the Osnabr?ck Tigers of the German Football League 2 (GFL2).
After back-to-back winless seasons, the Lords went 6-4 this fall, their best finish since 2005. In September, Williams was named the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) Player of the Week after rushing for 194 yards in the Lords’ victory over Earlham College, their first win in 25 contests.
These achievements landed the Lords much media recognition and Williams an interview on ESPN’s show UNITE.
Rushing for 1,027 yards over the course of the fall, Williams became only the eighth Lord to accumulate over 1,000 yards in a season. He was also responsible for nearly 150 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, anchoring the Lords’ offense and giving the team its first legitimate shot at winning the NCAC since before he enrolled in 2009.
“Going into the season we as a senior class and a team were very hopeful. We had a lot of confidence in the new coaching staff and it was expected that we would do well,” said Williams. He also noted his appreciation for the team’s supporters. “The attention just from the student body, the faculty, just the Kenyon community, was something that was really special,” he said.
Williams’ brother-in-law, a native German who has played for several clubs in the country, helped spark the senior’s interest in playing overseas.
“I didn’t feel I was necessarily done playing football, so I talked to [Head Coach Chris] Monfiletto, and I asked if he knew how to facilitate this happening,” Williams said.
His talks with Monfiletto led Williams to join what he described as a “social network” for aspiring pro-football players.
The day after he created his profile, the Tigers, whose home is a city of 165,000 in northwestern Germany, contacted him.
“It was pretty clear off the bat that they wanted to sign me,” Williams said. Hammering out a contract took some time, though. The team was hoping to fly Williams over in early spring to begin training for the season’s start, which is in late May. This arrangement, however, conflicted with his plans to complete his last semester at Kenyon and graduate.
“Initially they were talking about getting me over in March, ﾅ so that was an issue from the start,” Williams said.
Placated by the fact that Williams cross-trains in the form of running track, the Tigers eventually relented, and Williams now plans to fly over shortly after May 18, the date of commencement. He is preparing for the season by following a football-oriented workout regimen, and he also hopes to study the team’s playbook before he departs in May.
The GFL2 is Germany’s second most elite American football league, but teams that perform well enough can be promoted to the top-tier GFL.
Both leagues limit the number of foreign players to just a few per team, ostensibly to encourage more Germans to play and to prevent richer teams from being able to sign more imported players, which could give them a major advantage. The foreigners who do play, however, appear to be integral parts of their teams.
“They bring the Americans in for the team to be better but also to help with the German players and learning football more, because they’re really trying to make it a point of emphasis to really learn how to play the game from people who’ve experienced it their whole lives,” Williams said.
Monfiletto likened the caliber of the GFL2 teams to that of a collegiate Division-III all-star team. He added that “[Williams] was a really good player in our league and we think that we play in one of the top five Division III conferences in the country, so I think that he’ll do fine over there.”
Williams is also confident about his prospects. “I’ve played with just about every imaginable football scheme,” he said. His deep gameplay knowledge, coupled with his experience overcoming Kenyon’s long losing streak, have convinced Williams that he is “ready for anything, football-wise.”
Reaching the National Football League (NFL) was never a realistic goal, he concedes. Ted Stanley, Kenyon’s head coach through 2011 and now an assistant coach at Utah’s Weber State University, said Williams didn’t have the right “genetic fit” for the NFL.
He added, though, that Williams is “dedicated, works hard, pays attention to his craft, pays attention to the details, and is a smart guy, so he’s able to do things that a lot of other players can’t.”12
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