Crossing Borders For the Love of the Game

Courtesy of Tyler Stoddard
Though Tyler looks forward to going to Germany and continuing his football career, leaving his newfound family does make it harder for him to go. Until he leaves in April, he plans on spending all his time with them and the siblings he grew up with, Chad McGee and Kirstyn Schronk.

Despite the rainy weather outside of Smoothies ‘n Things, when Tyler Stoddard walked in, his smile was not dampened in the slightest. Dressed in casual grey slacks and a button down shirt from a business presentation he had earlier that day, Stoddard was relaxed as he ordered a Tropical Smoothie and Panini. Though he did not play this past football season, the defensive back’s athletic career is far from over. In April, the former Southeastern footballer will take his cleats overseas to play for the German football team Frankfurt Galaxy.

 

Heather Jewell: What made you want to come to Southeastern?

Tyler Stoddard: Honestly, a buddy of mine from high school signed to come play here my junior year of high school, and I was getting recruited in football and baseball. Southeastern was the first school to offer me a scholarship. I had a buddy here, and it felt right. So, I had to come here.

 

HJ: When did you start playing football?

TS: I started flag football when I was seven, contact at eight, and I haven’t stopped playing since then.

 

HJ: What made you choose football over baseball?

TS: I actually came here to play both. I signed a football scholarship to Southeastern, and me and the head football coach Mike Lucas had negotiated a deal that if I signed I could play both. I’d do football in the fall and baseball in the spring. After my freshman football season, he was released and a lot of his coaching staff with him. When coach Roberts and the new staff came in, I was with baseball at the time. It wasn’t his fault, but he made it a point that I had to pick one or the other because he didn’t want me getting hurt in baseball and then not being able to play in my scholarship sport. I was with baseball for a month, but I eventually gave it up for football.

 

HJ: What is your favorite memory of playing football here at Southeastern?

TS: Hands down it was the first time we won conference and everybody stormed the field. It was the best feeling in the world. It was something that had never been done here before, and when we made that happen, and seeing how involved everybody was, the students, the community, how there wasn’t enough room in the bleachers so people were standing and when they crowded the field…I just can’t get that thought out of my head. 

 

HJ: What was the camaraderie like among the team?

TS: It was awesome. *laughs* It was like a brotherhood; they have sororities and fraternities, but I think football has got to be the best brotherhood you could be in, when it comes to sports at least. I knew all the guys on the team, especially on defense. They had my back, and they knew I had theirs. Whatever happened in the locker room or on the field, nothing was going to break our bond. It was good to have.

 

HJ: Do you still hang out with a lot of them?

TS: I do. Josh Daken is my roommate right now. He’s a senior this season, but I hang out with some of the guys [and] take classes with them. We stay in touch. Even the guys who have already moved away and gone off to do their own thing, we  stay in touch.

 

HJ: Tell me about Germany, how did that come up?

TS: I’d heard Tommy Connors went to play in Germany when I came here and that was my first moment of thinking it could be a possibility to go play there. A couple guys who have come through the program here, I heard about them going play in France, Germany and Italy. My senior year I had an injury, and the following January I had surgery on it, so I wasn’t able to do Pro Day and get a shot at the NFL. Once I realized that was out of the equation, I made this account on a website that connects players internationally to play sports. Coaches started contacting me shortly after I put it up and looked at my highlight film. They liked what they saw and offered contracts. Now it’s time to go.

 

HJ: What is the name of the site you used?

TS: Europlayers.com; I want to say they have football, basketball and soccer. I’m not sure what else, but I’m sure there’s more.

 

HJ: When did they start contacting you?

TS: I created the account around March, and early March I finished making my highlight film. Within a month, I started having messages.

 

HJ: What kind of teams messaged you?

TS: In Europe, American football is broken up in three levels you can play at. Division One is the higher ranking. It’s like the NFL, division two is a little weaker than that and division three is like arena ball. I had teams from Switzerland, England, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, just all over the place, offer me spots. I never would have imagined that a year ago, but it’s an opportunity.  I think for a lot of guys, going over to Europe is a great deal. It’s the same sport here. Going over there, getting to travel and play the game I love is amazing.

 

HJ: It’s a big cultural experience too. Are you excited to be thrown into the whole new culture?

TS: Absolutely. I was kind of scared coming out to Hammond when I graduated high school because I was kind of put out on my own, and I wasn’t in my comfort zone. Going out and meeting new people, it wasn’t something I was ready for. But after being here, I’m ready to meet people. I’ve met people who have been amazing influences in my life, people who have changed my life. I’m not scared of going there at all. I know what to expect when I get there; not culturally because I’m sure theirs is completely different from our own, but I’m not as shy as I was and I know how to adapt. I just feel like here I was so sheltered and now I get to experience whole new cultures.

 

HJ: Have you bought any traveler’s guides or anything to prepare you for the trip?

TS: No, actually. But I did download the duolingo app and have been working on my German.

 

HJ: You don’t want to try Rosetta Stone?

TS: I actually put that on my Christmas list so fingers crossed. *laughs* Fingers crossed, we’ll see if that happens.

 

HJ: Do you think a bunch of the guys would enjoy going overseas?

TS: Yeah I do. A couple guys have actually asked me about it. For a lot of guys who want to keep playing football, why not try it out. I don’t see how you could pass that up.

 

HJ: How long does the season last?

TS: They start in the summer, so I’d fly out in April and the season would begin in early May and last till early October. They have a playoff season, and you have the regular season. Then you can play other top teams around the nations, like France or Scotland.

 

HJ: Do you know who your teammates will be?

TS: They have a website, and they are only allowed to have three Americans on the field at once. They end up recruiting around seven [Americans]. I’ve gotten in contact with a couple of them and have been speaking with one guy on the defense. He played last season also and I tell you, he has not had one thing bad to say about it. He said it’s something I’m not going to regret.

 

HJ: Are you excited to meet the non-American teammates?

TS: I think it’s going to be a lot deeper than I think it is right now. When they signed me, they told me that for a lot of the guys it’s a professional sport, but a lot of the German guys don’t get paid. I’m excited to get back into that and play with people who are out there simply for the love of the game. A lot of them are going to come to me wanting to learn and I feel like I can be that guy. Playing under Coach Roberts here, I learned so much more than I ever thought I would. I’ll get to coach younger kids too, who are on their younger teams. I’ll learn about them and they’ll learn a lot about me.

 

HJ: How do your parents feel about playing overseas?

TS: They were a little thrown off, but they just want me to do what makes me happy. Obviously they’re worried with everything that’s going on in the world today. They’re probably more worried I’ll like it too much out there and not come back.

 

HJ: Do you think that could happen?

TS: Maybe, who knows? I might like it over there, might find something I like to do, might fall in love out there…who knows? It’s all possible.

 

HJ: Describe your parents to me?

TS: There’s actually a video on YouTube, “Football: SLU DB Tyler Stoddard-Halftime Feature,” everyone should go look it up. I was raised by my mom with my brother and sister. She’s the strongest woman I know. She taught me everything. She actually was my soccer-football-baseball coach growing up because she wanted to be involved. At the time I didn’t know my father. Two months before I turned 21, I got a call from my mother, the first year we won conference, saying she ran into the man she believed he was my father and wanted to know if I’d like to take a DNA test. I did, and I met this wonderful man, this wonderful person, who I never would have believed was my father, and who I’d wanted my whole life. I was kind of fascinated by the whole idea, because I wanted to know who I was. When I met him, I found out I have two younger brothers, a beautiful step mother and this huge family. Whether he knows it or not, whether I know it or not, because we were never introduced until I was 20, I learned a lot from him before I even knew him, if that makes sense. I don’t know, just meeting him was awesome, and this great, huge family I never knew I had was a wonderful experience. The timing was perfect. He got to see me play my last year. It was one hell of an experience.

Courtesy of Tyler Stoddard
Tyler Soddard's (middle) family grew when his mother Amy Stoddard (right) introduced him to his father Troy Sonnier (left) his junior year at Southeastern. After they met, Tyler was then introduced to his half brothers Ethan Sonnier (front) and Gavin Sonier.