Jack Bicknell (2005-2006)
Vince Martino (2007)
* World Bowl Champions
When the Scottish Claymores packed up at the conclusion of the 2004 season, the franchise was immediately replaced by Hamburg in November of that year. Hamburg had apparently been trying to land an NFLE team for sometime. At that point, with the exception of Amsterdam, all NFLE franchises were located in Germany. This helped the league pair down travel costs even more as it entered its twilight.
The franchise’s colors were red, white, dark blue, and teal. Due to Hamburg being the 3rd largest sea port in Europe, and a sheltered natural harbor, the aquatic Sea Devil name was chosen for the franchise name.
In his 3rd run at head coach in the ever changing league, Jack Bicknell, formerly of the Claymores and Dragons, took the reins at head coach.
Notably his general manager, Kathrin Platz was the first woman to hold the job in professional football history. They’d assemble a pretty interesting coaching staff, that included Vince Martino (OC/OL) and Sam Rutigliano (QB,WR).
The Sea Devils were an upgrade at the gate from the Claymores and boasted fairly strong attendance, proving that Germans were still hungry for the American brand of football.
The NFL allocated QBs Casey Bramlett (CIN), Ryan Dinwiddle (CHI), Tom Arth (IND), and Chirs Finlen (NO). Among the notables at other positions were Antonio Smith (ARZ), Bobby Blizzard (ARZ), and Tyson Clabo (DEN).
Bramlett and Art ended up taking the majority of snaps at QB for the Sea Devils to largely mixed results. On the bright side, the franchise’s rushing attack featured a two headed attack of Zack Abron (393 yards) and Larry Croom (303 yards). The team’s receiving corps was well balanced. Chris Collins (42 receptions) and Scott McCready (474 yards), a British national, led the way, while Bobby Blizzard kept the chains moving with a healthy 34 receptions at tight end. Runningbacks Zack Abron and Larry Croom both clocked in nearly 20 receptions each, while Terrance Metcalf was the long bomb threat (21.9 yards per reception) who had a league leading 95 yard TD. Ricky Bryant, had only 12 receptions, but led the team in TD receptions with 4.
The Sea Devils featured DB Shawn Mayer throughout the entirety of the franchise. With his NFL pedigree, he helped himself to 5 interceptions in 2005. Antonio Smith led Sea Devil defenders with 6 sacks. Hamburg overall had 13 interceptions and 23 sacks, and finished second in the league only allowing 196 points.
The Sea Devils proved to be a competitive team, scoring 213 points (3rd in league), and with 3 of their 5 losses coming at a combined 8 points. The franchise’s first win came in their home opener in Week 3, a 31-24 win over the Rhein Fire in front of almost 20,000 fans.
The franchise posted league expansion NFLE bests for wins (5) and attendance average (17,920). In Week 10, Hamburg had a season best 21,204 fans in attendance for their 17-15 win over the Galaxy.
Terrible winter conditions plagued the team throughout the first half of the season, and the record reflected it, as the Sea Devils dropped to a 0-6-1 record, however the team rebounded, winning the last three games of the season to finish with a 3-6-1 record.
The Sea Devils overall finished just below average in nearly every category offensively, but on the bright side, in pass protection, the team only allowed 11 sacks on the season. Brock Berlin took the majority of the starting snaps at QB. He threw for 1041 yards and 7 TDs. McReady returned and was the clear cut #1 receiver catching 41 balls for 486 yards and 2 TDs. The runningback corps saw Mike Jemison (386 yards), and Dejuan Green (216 yards) snagging the lion’s share of the carries.
On defense, the team was pretty spry leading the league by a wide margin with 24 sacks and a respectable 17 turnovers. Rayshun Reed led the team with 3 interceptions, with 1 going for a TD, as well as 9 pass deflections. Scott Scharff paced the franchise with 6 sacks, while Russ Rabe and Ivory McCoy both finished with 4. DB Shawn Mayer also checked in with 69 total tackles and a team leading 9 special teams tackles.
Although the team finished -1 in the turnover game, they allowed a grizzly 4 combined TD returns directly off of them.
In the face of the terrible weather, the Sea Devils finished at roughly 15k attendance a game- down, but still respectable as far as the numbers were concerned, especially for such a lackluster start.
On March 28, 2007, Jack Bicknell stepped down from his head coaching duties, citing health issues. Vince Martino, his longtime assistant was appointed to replace him- but that didn’t stop the good times from rolling.
To achieve this feat, the Sea Devils reloaded on offense, by selecting Quentin Griffin and former Houston Texan Tony Hollings at runningback, as well as former second round pick Teyo Johnson at TE. Then they selected Casey Bramlet (WAS) at QB, Mike Briesel (HOU) at G, and Marcus Maxwell (SF) at WR in the NFL allocation draft pool.
Bramlet had gone through an interesting transition since his first time quarterbacking the team in 2005. After the 2005 season he played a year in the CFL with the Blue Bombers. There he matured a bit and had a respectable season. The Redskins picked him up and shipped him back to Europa where the Sea Devils were willing to pick up where they left off. Casey had a good season for the Sea Devils, throwing for 2019 yards and 16 TDs to just 5 interceptions.
Quentin Griffin and Hollings were a one-two punch at runningback. Griffin had 358 yards on just 77 carries, while Hollings led the team with 4 rushing TDs running behind future Houston Texans starter (G) Mike Brisel. Justin Jenkins and Marcus Maxwell had almost identical receiving stats with 32 catches each, but Maxwell hauled in 9 TD passes.
Shawn Mayer again led the defense with 77 tackles and 7 pass deflections. Brent Grimes and Mayer tied for the team lead with 2 picks each, while Ben Ishola led the team with 5.0 sacks. The team finished at a +3 in turnovers, largely due to solid QB play, and was a close third (to first) allowing 179 points.
Sitting at a middling 3-3 after 6 weeks, the Sea Devils repeated the same feat from the previous season- this time winning 4 straight to end the season, finishing 7-3 and earning a trip to the World Bowl. Surging at the end of the season allowed the Sea Devils to finish with an identical record as the Galaxy, who the Sea Devils defeated in the final World Bowl 37-28.
Attendance was robust, never dropping below 18,000 a contest, and setting a franchise record in their final home game in week 9 with over 30,000 showing up to see the new big thing.
Europa got its plug pulled at the end of the World Bowl and that was it for Hamburg, who completely finished on a high note, as the team won the World Bowl and displayed some impressive attendance at the end.
Hamburg is considered a hotbed of American Football. The city has been host to the Hamburg Eagles, Hamburg Blue Devils, and most recently the ELF Hamburg Sea Devils.
The Sea Devil’s tie against the Berlin Thunder in 2006 (17-17), proved to be only the second tie in league history, with the first being way back in 1992 between the Birmingham Fire and London Monarchs– also a 17-17 finish.
Hamburg went down as the final World Bowl winner in league history.