Football: Raimann is preparing to jump into the NFL

The 24-year-old trades relatively high in the NFL draft, with the 32 teams picking the talents. The hope of being the first Austrian to play a competitive game in the NFL in 35 years is well-founded.

Because unlike some of his countrymen, he has played in the United States for years and also benefited from a change of position. In addition, he was not only invited to the Senior Bowl, an all-star game for college players, but also to the NFL Combine on Wednesday. This means that Steinbrunneren can present his skills to the club’s representatives for a week in Indianapolis in March before the draft.

When the season culminates and ends on Sunday with the Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles between the local Rams and Cincinnati Bengals, two athletes from Austria, Sandro Platzgummer (New York Giants) and Bernhard Seikovits (Arizona Cardinals), also participated this season – but only in the respective training teams. For more than appearances in the preparatory matches, it has not been enough for the duo from Tyrol and Vienna.

Running back and tight end entered the NFL through the International Pathway Program. This platform allows non-US players to get a chance abroad. With Leonel Misangumukini becoming one of the successful home football leagues from 1996 and 1997 in the United States, but athletes outside the United States rarely gain the necessary confidence in competitive play. Seikovits and Platzgummer only played in the preseason. The situation is different for Raimann, especially since he has been in the United States for a long time.

Awards in college, highly regarded

The 24-year-old, who like Seikovits took his first important steps in football with the Vienna Vikings, is not the first Austrian to have performed at the highest college level, but Raimann became such a valuable player with the Central Michigan Chippewas Player in the offensive tackle position to be named the 2021 Mid-American Conference Offensive Player by analyst firm Pro Football Focus at the end of this season.

The invitation to the Senior Bowl followed. Tackles that protect the quarterback are not considered stars, but they fulfill an extremely important task and are therefore often chosen higher in the draft. Last but not least, NFL experts consider it possible that Raimann will be included in one of the first rounds of talent selection in April. An Austrian has never been selected in the draft, the three kickers Fritsch, Linhart and Wersching all came to their team without a draft.

AP / Butch Dill

Bernhard Raimann (right) was invited to the all-star match in college football

Expert Daniel Jeremiah, the NFL network’s “draft guru”, ranks Steinbrunner as number 28 on his talent list this year and may even see him become number 17. The other connoisseurs are rightly more cautious, but that’s enough to say about the 2nd, 01 meter tall man weighing 138 kilos. “He should be a reliable starter at an early stage in his career,” stressed Jeremiah, who, like many others, is impressed with his exceptional career.

An unusual career

The remarkable thing: Raimann has only played the position for two years and football for only ten. According to Raimann himself, it started what Jeremiah calls a “fascinating story” with a desire for more physical action than football offered him. As a 13-year-old, he saw the “egg-shaped sphere” for the first time, then it went step by step. From the age of 14, Raimann played as a wide receiver and cornerback for the Vikings, but quickly went abroad as an exchange student.

“I thought, hey, I want to play Friday night (traditional high school football time). I thought it would be cool – and it was,” Raimann said on the sidelines of the ‘Senior Bowl’. he at Delton-Kellogg High School, and there he was so convincing that he got a job at Central Michigan University in 2017. “Enfant terrible” Antonio Brown and the first NFL election in 2013, Eric Fisher, who won the Super Bowl as a tackle with Kansas City, did it before him, among others.

From tight end to tackle

Raimann was not even a tackle at the time, but played like a tight end. As such, blocking is also part of the job, which should come in handy later. Because he was born with the hand goals for the position of quarterback protector, he accepted the invitation to retrain in 2020. Then came the pandemic, but Raimann was able to convince in just six games of the season.

“He not only had the dimensions, he also had the intelligence,” his head coach Jim McElwain said. Athlete coach Joel Welsh added: “He is a rarity, self-motivated and independent. He is a full professional.” Raimann gained 20 kilos in a short time due to his position.

Draft in Las Vegas in April

Last Sunday, Raimann played in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Where the draft begins is at least the motto of the event. In the training week with coaches from an NFL team, in his case the New York Jets, Raimann was able to continually improve and also show up in the game. What he lacks of experience, Raimann naturally compensates for with the work.

The draft will take place in Las Vegas from April 28 to 30 this year. If luck does not run out completely for him before then, Raimann will be the first Austrian to be selected in the talent lottery and crown, which is definitely an extraordinary career at the moment.

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