Head coach: Currently the head coach of the Dresden Monarchs of the German Football League, John Leijten returns to his second IFAF World Championship in charge of Australia. Leijten served as a coach with the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe, where he was also responsible for scouting European leagues and players and was in charge of the football development program of NFL Europe in the Netherlands. He won a World Bowl with the Admirals in 2005 and went on to coach with Aix-en-Provence Argonauts in the French Elite league and as the Australian Outback head coach at the IFAF World Championship in Austria in 2011. His coaching career began as defensive coordinator of the Tilburg Steelers in his native Netherlands, reaching the Dutch championship game. He also was the defensive coordinator of the Rotterdam Trojans during the club’s run to the final of the EFAF Cup and was head coach and offensive coordinator of the Vught Black Rhinos. In Australia, he has coached with the Berwick Miners, reaching the championship game in the Victorian Gridiron Football League, and was the defensive coordinator of the Cologne Crocodiles in the German Football League.
About Australia: Gridiron Australia, established in 1996, is the governing body of American football in Australia, which is played nationwide on an amateur basis. It is administrated, coached and officiated by volunteers who have a great passion and commitment to the sport of American football.
American football is played in each of Australia’s six States (New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania) and two Territories (Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory).
Gridiron Australia is a member of the Oceania Federation of American Football (OFAF), and there are currently more than 70 teams playing in Australia.
5 To Watch
Aaron Carbury, OL, Japan Bulls. Carbury is one of the veterans of the Australian Outback team that competed at the 2011 IFAF World Championship in Austria. He won a championship with Sydney University Lions in 2010 and currently plays in Japan for the Bulls.
Damien Donaldson, DB, Dresden Monarchs. Starting at safety in his second year with the Dresden Monarchs, Donaldson is becoming a defensive leader for the German Football League club. In 2014, he posted a team-best 91 total tackles. Donaldson also sees time at linebacker and can handle punting duties. He played for Australia at the 2011 IFAF World Championship in Austria, recording a tackle in each of his nation’s four games.
Jared Stegman, QB, Uppsala 86ers. Stegman plays his club football in Sweden with the Uppsala 86ers, where he also lines up at wide receiver. Back home with the Queensland Sundevils and Kenmore Bears, he was named his league’s MVP in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013, winning the Australian championship in 2014.
Alan Steinohrt, DL, Bayside Ravens. Steinohrt will play at West Hills Community College this fall, home of two U.S. assistant coaches. Steinohrt won a national championship with the Bayside Ravens and is a member of the Gridiron Australia Future Stars national junior development program.
Head coach: Danilo Muller Ribeiro has led the Brazilian national team since 2011. Earlier this spring, he guided his nation to its first IFAF World Championship berth with a 26-14 qualifying match win over Panama. Ribeiro also has been the head coach of Brazil’s Women’s Flag Football National Team since 2014. He was the head coach and defensive coordinator of the São Paulo Storm from 2011-12. Prior to his promotion to the head coaching roles, he was the offensive live coach for both Brazil and the Storm from 2006-09. He has playing experience in the United States, lining up at linebacker for Santa Monica College in 1999.
About Brazil: American football in Brazil, South America’s largest and most populous country, was born when teenagers adapted the sport to the beach. This limited the need to purchase equipment, and the beach sand provided a softer surface to learn the skill of tackling.
The implementation of cable television in the 1980s helped the sport to gain popularity as games were televised for the first time, and the number of spectators began growing to watch the fully equipped version of the sport
AFAB (Associacao De Futebol Americano Do Brasil) was established by state organizations as Brazil’s leading entity of the sport before changing its name to CBFA (Confederação Brasileira de Futebol Americano) in 2013.
Today, some of Brazil’s most successful soccer clubs have established their own American football teams, and NFL viewership is gaining rapid popularity.
5 To Watch
Heron Azevedo, WR, Cuiaba Arsenal. Azevedo played two seasons at Diablo Valley Junior College in Pleasant Hill, Calif., under head coach Mike Darr, lining up at wide receiver and on special teams. Azevedo also played American football at Colegio Anglo-Americano high school in Rio de Janeiro.
Rhudson Fonseca, QB, New Jersey Savage. Fonseca became the first native-born Brazilian to play as a quarterback on any level of the NCAA when he signed with Lincoln University. He currently is a member of the American semipro team the New Jersey Savage.
Cleverson de Freitas, DB, Coritiba Crocodiles. One of his team’s defensive leaders, Freitas’ key interception in the IFAF World Championship qualifier against Panama preserved a 24-14 lead in a win that earned his nation a ticket to Canton.
Augusto de Oliveira, DL, Tubarões do Cerrado. Oliveria is known as “The Bus” for his physique and his strong tackling style. He was one of the centerpieces of the Tubarões team in its first season and has attended Canadian Football League tryouts.
Gerson Santo, LB, Sao Jose Istepos. Santo is a disruptive force who creates turnovers, blocks kicks and scores points for his club team the Sao Jose Istepos, the back-to-back state champions of the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina.
Head coach: Patrick Esume leads France into the IFAF World Championship for the first time, having taken third place at the 2014 European Championship with a 35-21 victory over Finland. The German coach has enjoyed a successful club career, leading the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes to the German championship in 2010 when he was named coach of the year. Kiel won the European Football League title in 2014 under Esume’s watch. His success in France initially came with La Courneuve Flash, winning the French championship in 2009, two years after he was a member of the Hamburg Sea Devils coaching staff that won the NFL Europe World Bowl in 2007. Esume emerged as a national coach with the Frankfurt Galaxy in 2002 before becoming the only non-American coordinator in NFL Europe. He played defensive back with Europe’s storied Hamburg Blue Devils, winning three consecutive Euro Bowl titles and a German Bowl. He is no stranger to Canton, having served as a guest coach for the Oakland Raiders at the 2006 NFL Hall of Fame preseason game.
About France: The first game of American football in France took place in 1919. American soldiers, remaining on French territory after the World War I, competed in the former Parc des Princes stadium.
The first French team, Spartacus de Paris, was formed in 1980 and led to the creation of the French Federation of American Football (FFFA) in 1983 with nine clubs and 600 players. The FFFA created the Elite Championship first division in 1995, which was named Casque de Diamant – translated as “helmet of diamond.” That same year, running back Thibault Giroux became the first French player to be selected for NFL Europe, and he played for the Barcelona Dragons. He was followed in later years by the fellow French players Marc Soumah, Samyr Hamoudi and Phillipe Gardent, who was named NFL Europe Defensive Player of the Year in 2005.
France won its first international title in 2004 with the European Junior (Under-19) Championship. France successfully defended its title in 2006 and claimed third place in Seville, Spain, in 2008. The French senior national team took the bronze medal at the 2005 World Games in Germany and the silver medal at the 2010European Championship.
5 to watch
Guillaume Rioux, WR, Dresden Monarchs. One of the top receivers playing in the German Football League, Rioux caught 81 passes (sixth overall) for 1,352 yards (third overall) and 13 touchdowns in 2014. An explosive kick returner, he played college football in Canada at Laval University, winning the Vanier Cup in 2013.
Paul Durand, QB, Flash La Courneuve. One of Europe’s elite quarterbacks and the only non-American leading a team from under center in the top French division, Durand won an Elite championship with the Spartiates of Amiens and is now the established leader of La Flash Courneuve and the national team. At the 2011 IFAF World Championship in Austria, he lined up at wide receiver and had 12 receptions for 138 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown against Japan.
Stephan Yepmo, RB, Black Panthers Thonon Les Bain. Yepmo won French Elite League MVP honors in 2013 and 2014 and was denied a third only by an injury that interrupted the early part of this past season.
Sebastien Sejean, DB, Dresden Monarchs. Sejean spent the 2008 NFL season on the St. Louis Rams practice squad, seeing action during the NFL preseason. He also has played with the Reading Express of the Indoor Football League and is currently a member of the Dresden Monarchs of the German Football League.
Giovanni Nanguy, DE, Argonautes Aix en Provence. An explosive pass rusher who can line up at either defensive end or linebacker, Nanguy has frustrated offenses for the Argonautes Aix en Provence since having returned to France from German club Lubeck Cougars. He represented France at the 2011 IFAF World Championship in Austria, making 17 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery, earning second-team all-tournament honors. He also played in Canton at the 2009 IFAF Under-19 World Championship, recording three tackles and a quarterback hurry.
Head coach: Kiyoyuki Mori participates in his fourth IFAF World Championship, including his second as head coach of the Japanese national team. He also serves as head coach of the Lixil Deers of the Japanese X-League. In 2003, Mori was a member of the offensive staff for a Japan team that won the IFAF World Championship in Germany.
In 2007, Mori was the offensive coordinator of a Japan team that was beaten in double overtime by the United States in the gold medal game, having scored 133 points during the group stages. Four years later, he took over as head coach and led Japan to the bronze medal with a 17-14 win over Mexico.
About Japan: Established in 1934, The Japan American Football Association (JAFA) includes nearly 400 teams with more than 18,000 players. JAFA consists of three different football leagues: 64 corporate-sponsored semi-pro teams, 220 university teams and 106 high school teams with a bowl game concluding each league.
The Koshien Bowl, established in 1947, determines the college champion, while the corporate-sponsored semi-pro league launched the Tokyo Super Bowl in 1987 as its title game. That game has since been renamed the Japan X Bowl.
The Rice Bowl was developed in 1948 as an East-West all-star game. In 1983, its status was changed in celebration of the 50th anniversary of American football in Japan. Today, the Rice Bowl, which takes place annually during the national New Year’s holiday, features the champions of the Koshien Bowl and the Japan X Bowl to determine Japan’s national football champion.
The Japanese senior national team won the first IFAF World Championship in Italy in 1999 and successfully defended its title four years later in Germany. In 2007, Japan lost the championship game to the United States in double overtime.
5 to watch
Motoyuki Hirai, DL, Fujitsu Frontiers. A defensive star of the reigning Rice Bowl champion Fujitsu Frontiers, Hirai is a veteran of more than 10 X-League seasons and helped Japan to earn a silver medal at the 2007 IFAF World Championship in Kawasaki.
Takashi Kurihara, WR, IBM Big Blue. Kurihara attended the inaugural NFL Veteran Combine held in Arizona earlier this year after impressive performances for IBM Big Blue of Japan’s X League. He was invited to the rookie camp of the Baltimore Ravens two years ago. In Japan, he accumulated 614 yards and six touchdowns in eight games in 2014, including a trip to the Japanese X Bowl. He was named MVP of the Kanto collegiate league in 2009 for the Hosei University Tomahawks, one of the elite teams in the nation.
Ryo Takagi, RB, IBM Big Blue. Takagi helped IBM Big Blue to a perfect 7-0 regular season in 2014, leading the X League team with 64 carries for 430 yards and six touchdowns. He scored a touchdown in the end-of-season Rice Bowl but Big Blue lost the championship game to Fujitsu.
Yasuo Wakisaka, DL, Panasonic. A legend of the Japanese game who is 46-years-old and competing in his fourth IFAF World Championship, Wakisaka was a member of the Japan team that won the inaugural 1999 world title and in 2011 was named to the all-tournament second team.
Jumpei Yoshimoto, WR, Fujitsu Frontiers. Football fans in Canton will remember Yoshimoto for his tournament-leading performances in the 2009 IFAF Under-19 World Championship. An all-tournament performer, Yoshimoto broke his arm as he caught a touchdown to earn Japan a late fourth-quarter semifinal lead against Canada, only to see his side lose with 33 seconds to play. Recently, he scored a touchdown as Fujitsu won the Rice Bowl last season, capping a regular season with 19 receptions for 369 yards and two touchdowns.
Head coach: Mexico returns to the IFAF World Championship again led by Raùl Rivera Sànchez, who guided them to fourth place four years ago in Austria. Sànchez’s team defeated Germany and Australia in 2011 and narrowly missed out on a chance to play for the gold medal with a 17-7 loss to eventual champion the United States. A 17-14 defeat to Japan denied Mexico the bronze medal. Sànchez is the head coach of Universidad Nacional Autónoma De México (UNAM) Pumas, where he has coached since 2008. He led Mexico in the 2009 Aztec Bowl against a NCAA Division III select team. He also coached the Pumas UNAM to a 30-20 victory over Austin College and a 31-28 win over Lutheran University.
About Mexico: American football began being played in Mexico in the early 1920s at colleges and universities throughout the nation with the first professional championship taking place in 1928. As more colleges started programs, four divisions – called fuerzas – were created. The First Fuerza became the National League in 1970, and it was reestablished in 1978 under the present league, ONEFA. Today, Mexico has numerous college, junior and youth leagues under the guidance of the country’s national football governing body, Federación Mexicana de Fútbol Americano, A. C.
Traditionally taking place in December, the Aztec Bowl is an NCAA-sanctioned Division III postseason bowl game that has been played intermittently since 1950. With one exception, all of the games have been played at locations in Mexico. Since 1997, the bowl has featured a team of AFCA Division III all-stars against a team of Mexican all-stars.
5 to watch
Jonathan Barrera Sanchez, RB, UNAM. The National Autonomous University of Mexico running back is playing in his third IFAF World Championship. He was named MVP of Mexico’s win over Germany in Austria in 2011 and was named to the all-tournament second team. He ran for 119 yards on 24 carries, scoring three touchdowns in Mexico’s win against Australia. He also caught five passes for 43 yards in that game. He earned 2007 MVP honors in ONEFA and the 2009 Aztec Bowl and also helped his team win an ONEFA national championship in 2008.
Daniel Carrette, LB, UANL. The Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León linebacker has been playing American football since the age of 4. He progressed through the Wolves of the UAC to the Autenticos Tigres and in 2012 became a member of the national team in the Aztec Bowl.
Mauricio Chavez Lopez, OL, Dresden Monarchs. Chavez Lopez has extensive experience at the professional level, having been on the rosters of the Philadelphia Eagles (2007) and Oakland Raiders (2009) as part of the NFL International practice squad program. He played with the Cologne Centurions and Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe, winning World Bowl XIII in 2005, and with the Grand Rapids Rampage of the Arena League in 2008. The ITESM lineman played in three previous IFAF World Championships in Palermo (1999), Frankfurt (2003) and Austria (2011).
Ramiro Pruneda, OL, ITESM. Pruneda won four national championships and three best offensive lineman awards with Monterrey Tec and played in NFL Europe with the Cologne Centurions. He was a member of the San Francisco 49ers as part of the NFL International practice squad program. He also spent time with the New York Sentinels of the UFL and the Green Bay Blizzard of the Indoor Football League.
Roberto Vega, QB, UANL. Vega is the only Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León quarterback to lead the Tigers to three national championships. He was named Rookie of the Year in 2008, then Player of the Year and Quarterback of the Year in 2009 when he set a record for most touchdown passes in a season. In 2012, he was named the ONEFA Major League Most Valuable Player.
Head coach: Seong-Il Back returns to the IFAF World Championship for a second time, this time as head coach, having served as a defensive coach at his nation’s previous participation in Japan in 2007. He was appointed to the head coaching role at Korea Maritime and Ocean University earlier this year, having been in charge at Silla University in South Korea from 2012-14. Before that, he led the fortunes of his alma mater, Dong Eui University, where he played. He also played for the Korean National Team in 1993.
About South Korea: The Korea American Football Association (KAFA), established in 1947, is the governing body of all amateur American football in South Korea. By 2009, 37 college and eight club teams were registered with KAFA.
The Tiger Bowl is the championship game of South Korea’s national college tournament. Club teams also compete in the Korea National Football League, whose championship game is known as the Kwangeto Bowl. The winner of each bowl game goes to the Kimchi Bowl, the All-Korea national championship game, to determine the country’s national champion.
5 to watch
Jae Hwan Kim, WR, Seoul Vikings. Kim was the go-to receiver for quarterback Tae Hoon Kim during a pre-tournament game against Seoul Kissan Golden Eagles in June, catching two touchdowns, including a 42-yard scoring reception.
Tae Hoon Kim, QB, Samsung Bluestorm. The Samsung Bluestorn signal-caller is expected to guide South Korea’s offense from under center. He threw two touchdowns in a tournament warm-up game against the Seoul Kissan Golden Eagles in June.
Seung Jung Oh, DL, North Carolina Central University. Oh played in seven games for North Carolina Central University during his senior season in 2012, recording a tackle against Delaware State and a forced fumble at Elon. He played in eight games as a junior, including three starts, on the Eagles’ offensive line. He also played two seasons (2009-10) on the offensive line at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., after playing high school football at Los Osos High School, also in Rancho Cucamonga.
Bo Sung Park, RB, Pusan University. Park will lead South Korea’s ground attack. He scored a touchdown with a powerful run up the middle in a pre-tournament game against Seoul Kissan Golden Eagles in June.
Head coach: The U.S. Men’s National Team is led by former Boise State and Colorado head football coach Dan Hawkins. Hawkins was 53-11 at Boise State from 2001-05, winning four consecutive Western Athletic Conference titles. His teams compiled a 31-game WAC winning streak, the longest in conference history. His five seasons at Colorado (2006-10) included a win over No. 3 Oklahoma in 2007, the same year he led the Buffaloes to the Independence Bowl. Prior to Boise State, Hawkins coached Willamette University in Salem, Ore., to a 40-12-1 record from 1993-97, earning two conference titles and a 1997 NAIA championship game berth. Currently serving as a college football analyst for ESPN and SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Hawkins was the head coach of the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League in 2013.
About USA Football: USA Football is the United States representative to the International Federation of American Football. As the national governing body of the sport, USA Football selects and manages U.S. National Teams for international competition within the sport, including men’s, women’s and high school – Under-19, Under-18, Under-17, Under-16 and Under-15 – tackle teams along with men’s and women’s flag football.
The United States is the two-time defending men’s champion. In 2011, the United States defeated Canada, 50-7, for the gold medal in Vienna, Austria. The U.S. beat Japan, 23-20, in double overtime in Kawasaki, Japan, to win the 2007 tournament, the first that included a team from the United States.
5 to watch
Kevin Burke, QB, Mount Union. Burke grew up in Westlake, Ohio, just an hour north from Canton. He was a two-time Gagliardi Trophy winner at Mount Union, earning Division III’s top individual honor in 2013 and 2014. He also was a three-time AP Little All-America selection and a member of the AFCA All-America Team. Burke is one of two quarterbacks in Mount Union history to throw for more than 12,000 career yards. He also set a school’s quarterback rushing record with 1,887 career yards.
Kevin Cummings, WR, Oregon State. Cummings finished his college career with 53 catches for 627 yards and four touchdowns in 34 games. A three-year starter at slot receiver, Cummings has played with both the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League and the Portland Thunder of the World Football League. A former member of the U.S. Under-19 National Team, Cunnings helped the USA win a gold medal at the 2009 IFAF Under-19 World Championship in Canton.
Dylan Favre, QB, Tennessee-Martin. Favre earned OVC’s All-Newcomer honors as a senior, when he ranked second the nation by completing 71.1 percent of his passes. He completed 101-of-142 attempts for 1,081 yards and nine touchdowns. Favre transferred to UTM after playing for Pearl River Community College, where he threw for 2,204 yards and 16 TDs. He originally signed with Mississippi State after being named the 2009 Gatorade Player of the Year in Mississippi. He is the nephew of former NFL QB Brett Favre.
Nick Griffin, RB, Mississippi State. In 44 games with the Bulldogs, Griffin rushed for 592 yards and four touchdowns on 111 carries. He came to Mississippi state following a decorated career at Perry Central High School in New Augusta, Miss. As a senior in 2009, he had 2,080 yards rushing and 36 total touchdowns. Majoring in sports pedagogy, Griffin was a three-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
Jack Sherlock, DL, South Dakota State. Sherlock played 46 games at South Dakota State and was named team captain during his senior season, in which he had 32 tackles, seven tackles for loss, three sacks and five pass breakups. In high school, Sherlock played alongside Heisman Trophy finalist and 2009 U.S. Under-19 team member Jordan Lynch on nationally ranked Mount Carmel High School in Chicago. He finished that season with 74 tackles, including seven for loss. Outside of football, Sherlock has held three light-heavyweight boxing titles.