Lions help American team to global football victory

The 2011 International Federation of American Football (IFAF) World Championship, in Vienna, Austria, ended on Saturday, July 16 with the U.S. Men’s National Football Team taking home the gold medal. The national team and Southeastern were connected by Lions defensive coordinator Matt Webb and former Lion defensive back Tommy Connors, who helped team USA to victory.

“It was an honorable and humbling experience to represent the United States of America,” said Webb. “Having not served in the armed forces, it was a great feeling to wear the colors of our country and compete as the national team.”

Group play saw the Americans face three countries, Australia, Germany and Mexico, to determine who would play in the final.  Outscoring their opponents a combined 126-14, the U.S. National Team ran their way through to the final against Canada. The Canadians faced Japan, France and Austria in the  other group. The game ended, however, in a blowout, with the U.S. winning 50-7.

“It was very surreal; a once in a lifetime experience,” said Connors.  “Being at practice and looking down at your jersey and seeing USA made it feel like you were playing for the dream team.”

To get to the championship, the team met in Indiana where they trained before leaving for the tournament. The opportunity was too great for players, like Connors, to pass up.

“Everything happened so fast though,” said Connors. “I was called on a Sunday and asked if I could be in Indiana the next day. I knew I couldn’t pass it up.  But we came together quicker than any other team I have ever played for in that short period of time.”

The play on the field was marked by a hard work ethic, even though little practice time was available, as the team had been assembled so quickly.

“We went through six straight two-a-days, which is a tough, short practice schedule,” said Webb.  “The NCAA doesn’t allow such practices, but we had great facilities that helped us get where we needed to be for the tournament.  Everyone came in with no ego and worked hard to make sure they were prepared.”

The success of the U.S. Men’s National Team was built on hard work and camaraderie, an opportunity not wasted.  

“It was unbelievable to win a world championship for the USA,” said Connors. “We knew we were there to win and we accomplished our goal.”

With the chance of a lifetime passed, Webb expressed his desire to have another try at winning the gold while representing his country.

“Absolutely,” said Webb, “You get very few opportunities to represent your country and I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

As for Connors, he hopes one day he can play professionally, reaching his ultimate goal of playing in the National Football League (NFL).

“I still haven’t given up on that. I am also an assistant coach for Archbishop Shaw High School and I am in the process of being trained to own my own financial advising agency, but definitely football is in my future.”