NFL game in Munich: How a Thuringian founded the Seattle Seahawks as a football club

  • Herman Sarkowsky from Gera helped found the Seattle Seahawks
  • Thuringia includes the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trailblazers
  • Aaron Donkor hopes for a permanent place in the team

The NFL is coming to Munich on November 13th. At Allianz Arena, the Seattle Seahawks face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first regular season game in Germany.

Many fans are especially looking forward to NFL star Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 2020 Super Bowl winner, who were one of four teams to secure the marketing rights to Germany. After the departure of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, the Bucs are favored.

Nevertheless, there are many fans of the Seattle Seahawks in Germany. These are the reasons.

1. The Seahawks were one of the top teams when the NFL boomed in Germany

When the NFL switched from public to private television in Germany in 2011, the Seahawks were in the midst of a transition. Therefore, they had nothing to do with Super Bowl XLVI, which was broadcast for the first time by Sat.1 (running Football) on the night of February 6, 2012 after five years on ARD.

In the years that followed, interest in football broadcasts grew, and the Seahawks grew steadily. As the broadcaster expanded its NFL offerings due to growing demand and also included playoff games in the program, Seattle, with its elite defense, became stronger and stronger.

The “Legion of Boom” – Seattle’s legendary defense around Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas – got it done in front of the German fans. Most recently with the 43:8 thrashing of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, the Seahawks have become one of the most popular teams in Germany.

When race football began broadcasting free-to-air regular season games in 2015, the Seahawks had just missed their chance to defend their title. But thanks to the physical play of their defense, freed quarterback Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch’s spectacular running style, they continued to dominate airtime and popularity ratings.

2. Herman Sarkowsky – The Seattle Seahawks have a German founder

Herman Sarkowsky, born in Gera (Thuringia), fled the Nazis with his Jewish family in 1934. He arrived in Seattle with his siblings and parents in 1937 and built a successful real estate business. In 1974, together with other financially strong investors, he founded an NFL franchise in Seattle: the Seahawks. As managing owner and experienced sports official (formerly also owner of the Portland Trail Blazers of the American basketball league NBA), he shaped the team’s first year.

You can read his story exclusively in “The Seattle Seahawks: A Success Story of the NFL”, which was published by Meyer & Meyer Sportverlag in September 2021. The Seahawks are the first NFL team to have their history written in German. The book tells about how a garbage truck driver’s son became the NFL’s biggest garbage man, how a beast shook the earth, and how the number 12 became a symbol of a movement.

Keyword 12: Probably nowhere else in the world is a track as closely associated with a fan base as in Seattle. The 12th Man first appeared on the scene as the “12th Man” at Texas A&M University in the early 20th century. To avoid further copyright disputes, the Seahawks switched to the term “12s” a few years ago. They had previously acquired the trademark rights to the “12th Man” from Texas A&M for hundreds of thousands of dollars several decades ago, to use the term as a synonym for his fans.

These “12s” set a volume record (which was broken by Chiefs fans in a choreographed record attempt), traveled to London to turn a Seahawks away game at Wembley Stadium into a home game, and have since found themselves back home in Germany organized in a non-profit association.

The German Sea Hawkers eV is the most active NFL fan club in German-speaking countries. And by far the biggest. Over 1,600 dues-paying members have made it their mission to support the Seattle-based team despite the nine-hour time difference. With charitable activities, fundraising, events and a diverse – rather critical – editorial offer.

The fan club was founded in 2014 after success in Super Bowl XLVIII. He belongs to the so-called “Sea Hawkers Booster Club Network”, the officially recognized fan organization of the Seahawks, which consists of over 40 regional groups worldwide.

3. Aaron Donkor: A German plays for the Seahawks

Aaron Donkor came to Seattle in 2021 as part of the so-called International Player Pathway Program (IPP). The NFL Advancement Program sponsors numerous non-American football players each year as they attempt to pursue a professional career in the best league in the world by guaranteeing them a spot on a team’s practice roster. Jakob Johnson made the jump to the roster for the 2019 New England Patriots.

Born in Göttingen in 1995 and playing semi-pro in German basketball until 2016, Donkor came to American football through a tryout with the Düsseldorf Panthers. The club, which also coached former Patriots O-Liner Sebastian Vollmer, quickly showed his talent as a quarterback hunter.
In 2017, with the support of Björn Werner’s player agency Gridiron Imports, he received a scholarship to the New Mexico Military Institute to take the leap to the highest amateur level of football.

The plan worked: After two seasons, Donkor transferred to Arkansas State University, where he played for the Red Wolves in 2019 and collected 11.5 sacks in just four games. Then came Corona – and the dream of a professional career moved far away.

But the NFL invited Donkor to the funding program in December 2020 as one of eleven candidates from nine countries. After a convincing trial in front of NFL scouts, he was finally assigned to the Seahawks as a linebacker. In his first season, Donkor had to get used to the pace at the highest level. Although he did not progress beyond the reserve role, he gained valuable experience. He will now use that to attack again in the training camp. At his PR deals in Germany in the summer of 2022, he was convinced that this time he would make the jump into the final squad – and then stand for the Seahawks on the grass at the Allianz Arena in Munich on November 13.

About the author: Maximilian Längen is the founder and longtime editor-in-chief of the German Sea Hawkers, which as a German-speaking Seahawks fan club and registered association builds a bridge across the Atlantic. The trained journalist and sports science major, born in 1992, has written and podcasted about the Seahawks for his organization on a volunteer basis since 2014 and publishes the SEAlosophies newsletter.

About the book: “American Football – The Seattle Seahawks: An NFL Success Story” is a journey through time for all German-speaking Seahawks fans and those who want to become one. In more than 300 pages filled with anecdotes, facts and illustrations, authors Maximilian Längen and Christian Detterbeck (known from soccer) take soccer fans to the Northwestern United States, where sports and fan culture have helped an entire region gain new confidence. Historic victories, heartbreaking defeats and legendary moments – this book is a must for anyone who wants to get to know their favorite team better, deepen their knowledge and accompany the Seahawks on their way from gray mice to football powerhouse.

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