We have talked to 11 years NFL veteran and AFWB coach Will Svitek in Istanbul Technical University Stadium, Maslak. The only Czech Republic born player in the NFL, Tennessee Titans’ offensive tackle made remarkable statements regarding the NFL, NFL Europe, European and world football development and global expansion of the American football. We are so glad for sharing this terrific and fulfilling interview with our readers. Enjoy reading the reflection of a more than a decade experience, shared by Will Svitek…

Röportajın Türkçesini okumak için tıklayınız. (For the Turkish language version please click here.)

Oktay Cavus: First of all welcome to Turkey. You are the only Europe born player, with NFL Europe experience in the AFWB crew. What would you like to say about it?

Will Svitek: Obviously, yeah I was born in Prague, Czech Republic. And moved to the US when I was two years old. So, I grew up there. I’m from a European family, in sports. But, I grew up in California my whole life. So, I was exposed to American football from an early age. And I was fortunate, played High School football and got to go to Stanford University on a full football scholarship. And I, so that it was good opportunity that I got drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs, in the sixth round. I switched from the defensive lineman to the offensive lineman in the NFL. And after my rookie season, they sent me over the NFL Europe in 2006, just to get more experience. So, at that time NFL Europe was actually a great league. A lot of good players, a lot of American players. rookies were send over there. There was tie with the NFL. Which made a good talent. And we had a big fan base (Frankfurt Galaxy), we probably get 60,000 fans a game. So we were getting more than the top soccer teams there.

Kaan Ozaydin: What happened with the NFL Europe then, I mean why did they cancel the league?

Svitek: Basically the owners, it wasn’t making money, I guess. I don’t know the full story. But, it wasn’t making money. So, the owners didn’t want to put in more money, invest more money into it. I think it is really the basic thing in to it. But, it was a good farm system. It was like a minor league system. It helped really (to) develop players. Helped develop the American players. Helped give them exposure and also every team probably had about 10 Europeans on the team. So, it expose them to the game. And they were talented. So, it was mainly based in Germany, all the teams. But, there were actually some really good European football players. And, there’s obviously talent here and a lot of good players here. In Europe and in Turkey. Even seeing in these past couple of days. There are good players here. They just need more experience and just kind of, to be exposed to the game more. That is the only thing they are missing. Because, it’s not, still not a popular sports out here.

O.C.: How did you get involved in the AFWB program?

Svitek: So, basically Alex Mack, good friend of mine. He’s been involved in the past years. And he is teammates with Gary Barnidge. Alex and I, we spend time in the off season training together, down in Los Angeles. So, he told me he was doing this. It sounded like a great opportunity, great thing to do, something I wanted go get involved with. So, I told him to talk to Gary and if I can go on the trip. They invited me. So, really fortunate. Obviously, three things I am passionate about, you know. Helping kids, football and then visiting other countries and express other cultures. So, you know combining those three things together, with you know football, kids and international culture, it was just a no brainer not doing this. It was a great opportunity to, you know, meet more people, having influence on the kids’ life and trying to help them with the game of American football.

O.C.: Well, you’re playing in one of the most physical positions in one of the most physical sports of the world. How you keep up your strength, speed, health?

Svitek: Obviously, it’s tough. Because, you know, it’s very very demanding sport. I’m the oldest guy here, out of all the players. I’m 33 now. Just finished my 10th season. So, I’m the old guy in the group and… But, you’re a professional football player. So, it’s my job to take care of my body. So, I’m constantly, I’m constantly making sure I’m healthy, working on rehab, training, doing proper things to make myself in a good shape. Take care of myself in the off season. Take care of myself in the in season. Do stuff to prevent injuries. I’ve had six surgeries. So, that’s going to happen, when you play 10 years in the NFL, you can’t avoid that. But, I just try to, you know, just work hard. I just try to work hard, you know on the field, off the field and maintenance work and it’s a demanding thing. But, it’s your job. It’s your job to take care of your body.

K.O.: So what are thinking about the upcoming season because the Titans are re-building the team right now. Maybe, there will be a new quarterback in the team. What are your thoughts about it?

Svitek: Yeah, you know, that’s all above me. So, I’m not sure what’s going to happen with, you know, the QB position. Or, what are they going to do, or what direction they going to go obviously. There was a rough season, that past year. It was a really young team. I was probably the second oldest guy on the whole team. And so, it was a lot re-building going on. A lot of development that needs to be done, in the organization. And, you know they’ve good coaches there, good players there and so, who knows? I don’t know what’s going to happen exactly. But, obviously it was a disappointing season and a lot of works to be done still.

O.C.: How long are you planning to play in the NFL?

Svitek: I’m just taking it year by year. I’ve finished my 10th season. I’m going 33, going to 11th season. I don’t know…

O.C.: And I just ask you this question because you were born in Europe. Do you have any plans for development of the football program in Europe, in the future?

Svitek: Yeah, you know, like I’ve said, I’m the oldest guy here. So, I’m the closest to being done. You know…

O.C.: I mean you have 10+ years of experience in the top league in the world. And you can pass this experience to younger generations…

Will Svitek, Oktay Çavuş

Svitek: Yeah, definitely. I want to be involved in football in a strong capacity. What I want to coach at professional level or college levels, a full time job now. But, I think I definitely want to be involved in the game in some way, or form. Whether it’s coaching or on the business side of it. Or, just as, you know, helping kids, or doing something like these with camps. Because, obviously I think it’ll be a shame for me just to walk away from the game. I think I have lot knowledge. I can help kids. Help spread the word. But, I know I definitely always be involved with stuff like this. This is obviously a great opportunity. And, I think as I’m officially, you know, as I retire, I’ll kind of swarm more options with that. There’s some form, I’ll probably do something, I’ll stay involved with the game for sure. Because I want to help, I want to help spread the game. Whether I do that in the United States or whether I keep doing stuff internationally. Or, something like that… I’ll definitely try to spread all the knowledge that I learned through the years. Fortunate, I had some really good coaches.

K.O.: The world needs to learn more about the game of football, from guys like you…

Svitek: Yeah, this has been a great opportunity. Really, it’s fun for us, too. Because, there’s so much passion for the game here. It’s like pure enjoyment for the game, pure passion. Sometimes, even in the NFL you kind of lose it a little bit, you lose some of that because it is such a business. You see the business side if it. You forget why you first started playing the game, for the fun and enjoyment. And you are out here with the kids and you forget about the business side of it. You kind a remember why you started playing. So, that’s why I need being here, seeing in these kids.

O.C.: Have you ever searched about the football situation in the Czech Republic?

Svitek: No, not really. I really have no idea. Is there a football program in Prague?

O.C.: There’s actually a pretty strong football program in the Czech Republic. They’ve conducted a game in Prague, Team USA vs. Team Europe…

K.O.: Kind a like Pro Bowl stuff…

O.C.: And they have a pretty good team, called Prague Panthers…

Svitek: Hmm… Well, I’ve no idea to be honest. I’ll have to look it up. I’ll probably Google it. Were they called Prague Panthers? I’ll look it up. I think, at some point, this year I want to go back and visit Prague. And maybe it’d be fun for me to go, if I can go visit my home country. Maybe go, check out the football teams. Maybe help out some way. That would be kind of fun. I haven’t really been involved in Prague. Obviously, Czech Republic has been so special to me. My whole family is from there. We immigrated here in 1984, from Communism. My whole family is Czech. So, it’d be kind of special for me to go back and help out some way. Or, just seem being involved. Because, I think, I’m probably the only Czech born player in the NFL Has ever played in the NFL. I don’t even know.

O.C.: Since we’ve started to talk about the international development and growth of American football, what do you think about the future of American Football in the Olympic Games?

Svitek: That was good question. I really don’t know. I think the dominance of American football in the US is everything. The game is growing. But, the problem is just, of in the international scale, I don’t know. I don’t see it going yet. But, who knows? The American Football is growing internationally too. And I know that the NFL, their big thing is, they are trying to expand the game internationally. Because, domestically it’s a huge sport and from the business standpoint, I think the next step for the NFL is to grow the game globally. And that’s what they’re trying to do.

O.C.: Is that why they cancelled the NFL Europe? Instead of expanding to whole Europe, all teams were collected in Germany, after a couple of years…

Svitek: Well, yeah, but I know they really want to. And you know, to be honest it’s a matter of time, before you start seeing real professional teams in Europe. Whether, that’s gonna happen soon? I don’t know. But, I think in a matter of time there’ll be teams internationally. So, they going to expand the game. Whether this be Olympic Sport? I don’t see that happening any time soon. But, I know the NFL is trying to make big pushes to get this game spread globally. Because, I know from the business standpoint it makes sense for them. And, it’ll be good for just the fan base and getting everyone. The more people play American football, the better it is too, for them (NFL).

O.C.: Thank you for the time you’ve spared for us. It’s a pleasure having you here in Istanbul. Thanks a lot.

Svitek: Thank you for having us…

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