Swarco Raiders Tirol: Voices on the start of the Austrian Football League

Grein emphasized: “We want to show that we belong in this league and can keep up.”

Florian Grein about…

…the anticipation of the new season: “The team is hot for the first game. The offseason is very tough with all the strength training and the camps – and you only play against each other. We are happy that things are starting now and we want to take the next step.”

…the pre-season: “It’s a work in progress. We’re getting better all the time, we have to keep it that way throughout the season. There are many young players in the team, some from 2003 and 2004 who played in the U18s last year. Some of them will appear as starters. It will be interesting for them in particular to see how they develop further.”

…the goals: “We want to show that we belong in this league and can keep up. Going forward, we want to be seen as a training track for the ELF team – that should be the goal. We have young players who are very motivated and want to go far in football. The AFL is the right platform for this. It is important that the competition is very strong – and it will be.”

…Antonio Johnson: “Last year we always had problems on defense and conceded an average of 45 points. This is too much. I’ve been in contact with Antonio since July last year, he’s an incredibly likeable player with great potential to be a highlight. He can lead the team and can help out as a linebacker against both the pass and the run. That was a problem for us, especially last season.”

…C.J. Fowler: “A young but already experienced player, very fond of football with a high football IQ. We have grown closer together in the last few weeks – since he has been in Innsbruck – and will intensify our cooperation even further so that we can also share certain tasks. Especially when it comes to the game plan and communicating with the team.”

CJ Fowler on…

…his player type: “I’m a fighter and I love to compete with other players. I always want to win and I do everything in my power to ensure that the team is successful in the end. I don’t want to limit my game too much to one particular aspect. If I had to describe my style, I would describe myself as a dual threat: I always make sure I can throw the ball. If that is not possible, I can and will also use my legs in the running game. The most important thing for me is to showcase our playmakers as best as possible.”

… the move to Innsbruck: “Innsbruck is a beautiful city and I am very grateful to the Swarco Raiders for giving me a chance and trusting me. I chose the Raiders because I immediately felt like I was part of a family here. That’s what I was looking for and that’s what I’ve found here in Innsbruck. Also, the fans are fantastic, they always support us and some of them reached out to me as soon as I signed. Everyone here – from the coaches to the players, the front office – wants to win and create something special. That has already been proven in the past. I want to give the people here something to be proud of and be a part of the successful tradition.”

…his goals: “Win football games! At the end of the day we want to win the Austrian Bowl and that can only work if we do our best every week and win the games. We go from game to game. Personal statistics are not that important to me, it’s not about me. Football is a team sport and I want to win as a team.”

Antonio Johnson on…

…his decision to play football again: “I had a few options and was serving in the US Army for the past few months. During that time I couldn’t join a team and at first I didn’t know if I wanted to play football again. When Coach Flo called, I was very excited, but I couldn’t make a decision yet. After discussing it with my family, I finally agreed. I am very happy to be here now!”

… his role as a defensive leader and the potential of the defensive: “I think we’re a lot better than last year. We’ve improved our tackle and coach Philipp (Margreiter, defensive coordinator) is doing a very good job. Personally I’m not the loud type, I prefer to talk behind the scenes with each position group – you will never see me yelling at anyone. This season will be very different from last year.”

…his strengths and his style: “My athletics should be able to help our defense. I think I play a lot smarter now than I did in college. In addition, I can be used in several positions.”

…his goals for 2023: “I want to win a ring. I just focus on winning games.”

Felix Reitter on…

…his time at high school in the USA and his return to Tyrol: “I gained a lot of experience there, both for life and for football. To be honest I came back because it’s just nicer here and I have my family and friends here. I also think that the football here in Austria is of a very high standard.”

…the pressure as a young player and his role in the team: “I usually forget the pressure on the field, also because I have a lot of experienced players next to me. They help me, encourage me. I can learn a lot from them!”.

…promise to the fans: “We will always give 100%. All the players are very hungry – at best we can put on a show for the fans.”

…life as an army athlete: “You live like a professional athlete, which helps me and the team enormously. The day is used optimally, so we can give everything in the games.”