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Cologne Centurions

Coaches:
Peter Vaas (2004-2005)
David Duggan (2005-2007)
John Lyons (2007)

Stadiums: RheinEnergieStadion

Records:
4-6 (2004)
6-4 (2005)
4-6 (2006)
6-4 (2007)

BACKGROUND:

On December 19th, 2004, Cologne joined the NFLE, as the Barcelona Dragons were effectively moved to the city. As Germany was solidifying itself as a hotbed of American Football, Cologne seemed like a logical choice. Along with Berlin and Frankfurt, Cologne would become the 3rd NFLE franchise based in Germany.

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue introduced the franchise fittingly in front of the Roman-Germanic Museum in Cologne. Peter Vaas was introduced as head coach. A familiar face to fans, Vaas was previously head coach of the Berlin Thunder.

2004

The 2004 Centurions finished a middling 4-6. Not bad for an ‘expansion franchise’. From the Barcelona Dragons franchise from the previous season, only two players made the roster- Marco Martos, and Cedric Cotar.

The team was plagued by special teams issues and turnovers throughout the season. It was obvious from the first game, in which the Centurions coughed up 16 points off of special teams mistakes to lose 26-25 against Rhein. The team finished dead last in net differential at -10. After dropping their first 3 contests, the Centurions went 4-3 down the stretch. Of all the teams, the Cologne’s attendance was underwhelming, with attendance clocking in at 8-10k, with 20k showing up to watch the Rhein fire during their late season rematch. Attendance sat at about 11,400 on average.

DE Felipe Claybrooks led the league with 10 sacks, as the franchise only allowed 2,647 yards on the season (1,004 rushing and 1,643 receiving)- a clear 200 yards ahead of second place defensive unit Rhein. Unfortunately the defensive mindset of bend not break didn’t translate, as the team gave up a league high 201 points on the year. The franchise finished with 14 (8 interceptions, 6 fumble recoveries), and middle of the pack on red zone defense. MLB Bobby Brooks had 2 of those interceptions to lead the team.

On offense, Ryan Van Dyke finished middle of the pack, growing as a gunslinger throughout the season. He threw for 16 TDs and 2003 yards, but also threw 14 interceptions as well. His 81 yard bomb led the league. Cologne wasn’t bad in the red zone seeing 30 attempts, scoring 16 TDs and 7 FGs. Avon Cobourne finished with 570 yards rushing and 812 overall, ranking 3rd both in rushing and total yards from scrimmage. WR Carl Morris finished 5th in receiving with 530 yards on 36 catches (4 TDs), while Reggie Newhouse squeaked in at 9th with 447 yards on 39 receptions and 3 TDs, respectively.

“It was a tremendously rewarding year for our organization and our city. For us, as a team, it was a frustrating year because I don’t think 4-6 is indicative of the talent we had on this team. We didn’t find a way to win. That’s the frustrating part.”

-Peter Vaas
Head Coach
Cologne Centurions

2005

The Centurions invested heavily on defense in the free agent draft, spending most of their picks overall on both sides of the line. The franchise was rewarded with a 6-4 record and a 3rd place finish for their efforts.

Disappointingly however, the attendance didn’t really see an improvement, outside of 32k showing up for their contest against nearby Rhein. This propped the numbers up artificially to 14k. The highlight of the season was definitely Cologne’s pair of wins over eventual World Bowl champion Berlin, and before a 2 game skid, while being in the mix for a World Bowl berth. Interestingly, Cologne won all its close contests, but in all 4 losses was blown out by at least 12 points.

The Centurions saw improvement in key areas, but again turnovers played a key role in the franchise not taking that final step forward. In fact Cologne finished with a net differential of -16. The defense failed to create turnovers (9 total- to rank last in the league), while the offense had 25 of their own.

The defense led the way and the league in total yards allowed. They also were outstanding in the red zone, allowing just 29.6% of conversions for TDs. White led the league with 7 sacks, while Bobby Brooks led the team in tackles. No Centurion finished in the top 10 in turnovers.

RB Kory Chapman led the way for the Cologne offense doing it all, rushing, receiving, and returning. He finished second in combined net yards with 1,103- missing out on first place by only a few yards, while his 718 yards rushing also was second in the league. Cologne QB Kevin Thompson threw 8 TDs to 10 picks, but led the league with a 75 yard TD toss, and a respectable 1,561 yards.

“I think it was a good season overall, we ended at 6-4. I really believe we should be in the World Bowl, but things happen for a reason. I came over here to accomplish something and we were the number one defense that was the main thing. Tuipala and myself led in tackles this year and it was a good thing. We did well this year.”

-Centurions LB Bobby Brooks

2006

David Duggan took over as head coach from Peter Vaas after the season. The team employed the same draft strategy as they did previously, investing heavily on the lines, but this year with a particular interest in DE. After squeaking by upstart Hamburg in the opening game of the year, the Centurions outplayed the Admirals, but missed 4 field goals and lost the next game. Turnovers doomed the franchise over the next 3 weeks, culminating in 4 consecutive losses. The team bounced back during the season though finishing with a 4-6 record, sparked primarily by Kliff Kingsbury at QB, who finished 3-3. Attendance finally saw a marked uptick, jumping up to a bit over13.5k on average for the season.

The high point of the Centurions season was a 20-13 road win over eventual World Bowl contender Amsterdam, and then smashing the Thunder the following week at home 25-7.

Fred Russell accounted for 522 yards rushing, while QB Shane Boyd set a league record with 339 yards rushing, and a league leading 7.2 yards per carry. Boyd split quarterback duties with Kliff Kingsbury on the season. Boyd finished 4th with 1,139 yards, throwing 5 TDs to 11 interceptions. Reggie Newhouse led the Cologne receiving corps with 23 catches for 363 yards and 2 TDs. – Notably his 80 yard TD catch was the league long. The offense remained the Achilles heel in the turnover department accounting for a whopping 21 turnovers.

The defense slipped a notch to a respectable 3rd place in overall yardage allowed, and red zone defense on TDs. The franchise on a positive note finally turned the corner on net difference on turnovers. The key was the defense tying for the league lead in takeaways with 23. This allowed the team to earn a net difference of +2. Phillipe Gardent led all players in the league from his linebacker position, with 70 tackles. Bryan Save led the team from his DT position with 4.5 sacks, and Kevin Curtis had 4 picks from the S position.

LB Philippe Gardent, Gabe Lindstrom P, Erik Pears G, and Bryan Save DT, all earned All-NFL Europe Honors. Gardent also tied for NFLE Defensive MVP with Tony Brown (AMS-DT).

“I was impressed all year with the way our guys held together in a tough situation, and despite some close losses everyone continued to work hard and play their hearts out. To have the chance to simply get out onto the field and get reps in live action was invaluable, and I certainly value my experience in NFL Europe.”

-Centurions QB Kliff Kingsbury

2007

In the league’s final season, the franchise took a different approach to the draft, addressing a variety of positions. Among the most interesting selections was 5th round pick, TE Bobby Blizzard out of North Carolina.

2007 was the Centurions best year. They’d finish with a 6-4 record, as attendance held steady from its 2006 numbers at around 14,300. All things aside, it was impressive the team even made it this far, as head coach David Duggan stepped down for the week 10 contest due to health issues. Interim coach and defensive coordinator John Lyons stepped into the role for that final game. The Centurions remained in the mix for World Bowl consideration through that final week, dropping a do or die contest to the Frankfurt Galaxy, 31-14.

Both the defense and the offense had studs in 2007. RB Derrick Ross led Europa in rushing with 802, and was first in yards from scrimmage with 933. He also had 4 -100 yard rushing efforts on the season, and won a share of Europa’s Offensive MVP Honors. QB Erik Meyer threw for 1,612 yards, while TE Bobby Blizzard had 37 catches for 489 yards and 6 TDs. Among receivers, Burl Tolar had 28 catches for 394 yards and a TD.

On defense, the franchise allowed just 172 points, and 28 sacks on the year. Jason Hall had 11 sacks and was named Europa Defensive MVP. Clifton Smith had 3 picks, to pace a defensive unit that had 13 on the year.

The Centurions were honored to have 8 players named to the All-NFLE team at the end of the final season including Kevin House (CB), Derrick Ross (RB), Bobby Blizzard (TE), Chris Reis (S), Greg Eslinger (C), Kevin Vickerson (DT), Philipe Gardent (LB) and Jason Hall (DE).

THE END:

The league closed up shop basically a week after the World Bowl ended and along with that the Cologne Centurions hopes of ever going to the World Bowl.

“The time is right to re-focus the NFL’s strategy on initiatives with global impact, including worldwide media coverage of our sport and the staging of live regular-season NFL games,”

-Mark Waller
Senior vice president of NFL International

NOTES:

Japanese QB Kentaro Namiki made NFLE history in 2004 becoming the first national QB to complete a pass on his first play of the game, hitting Werner Hippler for a 3 yard gain during the final contest of the year.

LB Philippe Gardent was the first national to lead NFLE in any statistical category. He’d also be the first named to the NFLE All World team, and be named as a defensive MVP.

Of all the European franchises since the inception of the WLAF in 1991, Cologne would be the only team not to win a World Bowl.

LEGACY:

Other Coaches: TRACY SIMIEN, SCOTT MILANOVICH, TIM GRUNHARD
QB: SHANE BOYD
WR: CHRISTIAN MALM
TE: BOBBY BLIZZARD
K: NICK NOVAK

Simien, Tracy

Card: ProSet World League 1991
Acquired: 2020, EBay
Failure: TTM 2010 and 2016, C/o Home

Tracy Simien played during the late Jurassic era of the SWC for the Texas Christian Horned Frogs from 1985-1988. During that period he switched positions 4 times, from center and guard as a freshman, and then as a nose tackle during his sophomore campaign, finally landing at defensive end during his junior season. Over his time at TCU, Tracy compiled 193 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, and 12 sacks. Reputed to bench at the time over 400 pounds, Tracy slipped through the cracks of the 1989 NFL Draft, but found a home on the developmental roster of the Steelers that season, seeing some action in the divisional playoff game against the Broncos. In 1990 he joined the Chiefs developmental squad- where he was then became one of the first ‘big name’ NFL Enhancement Players to sign with the World League for the 1991 season.

Tracy made quite a splash for the Montreal Machine at linebacker that year. During the league’s debut weekend, he’d wear USA Network’s Helmet Cam making quite a splash during the team’s win over the Birmingham Fire 20-5. His bone crushing hits and plays were amazing to watch, and he finished with 4 tackles and a sack in the exciting contest. After the dust settled from that year, Simien had 33 tackles, 5 sacks, and a fumble recovery- good for first team All-World Honors in 1991.

Simien became one of the league’s early poster children for success, as he parlayed his experience and seasoning into a starting role with the Chiefs in 1991 at LILB. In 1992 he’d lead KC in tackles with 97, and lead the linebacker corps with 3 interceptions at MLB. He’d follow up his solid ’92 campaign with a career high 105 tackles in 1993 back at LILB. Over the next following 3 seasons Tracy finished with over 70 tackles playing again back at MLB. After the 1998 season, he signed with the San Diego Chargers- retiring after the season.

I was frustrated with my lack of success with Tracy so when I saw this reasonably priced autograph on Ebay, that matched previous ones of his, I went ahead and pulled the trigger, confident I had acquired the real deal.

Tracy has dabbled in coaching, imparting his knowledge that he learned in the NFLE with the Cologne Centurions from 2005 and 2007, and the Houston Texans in 2006.

WLAFTACSACFUM
335.01
INTYDSAVGTDLG
00-.-0-.-
NFL G/GSTACSACFUM
117/885135.08
INTYDSAVGTDLG
5245.8010

Novak, Nick ‘The Kick’

Cards: TNT UFL 2011, Topps AAF 2019, Topps AAF 2019 Certified, Topps XFL 2020 Certified
Acquired: TTM 2019, C/o Home
Sent: 7/6 Received: 7/15 (8 days)

Nick Novak is just one of those kicking mercenaries- and he’s been all over now FIVE different leagues. It started at the University of Maryland in 2001. As a four year starter for the Terps, Novak was 153/159 on extra points, and 80/107 on field goals. He finished overall with 393 total points (5th all-time in college history), and lurked near the top of the college leaderboards for both total points and field goals made in 2002 and 2003.

Going unselected in the 2004 NFL Draft, Nick tried out with both the Bears and Cowboys, before ultimately landing on the Redskins in 2005 as an injury sub for John Hall appearing in 5 games. Nick was then snapped up by the Cardinals- who also had an injured kicker. After failing to unseat incumbent Neil Rackers in camp the following year (2006), Nick found himself in a familiar place again- back with the Redskins as an injury replacement for John Hall. After losing out to Shaun Suisham, Nick was signed by the Bears and allocated to NFL Europe.

Novak had a solid campaign with the Cologne Centurions. He’d finish 25/25 on extra points, and 10/17 on field goals (including a game winner) with a long of 49. Although Nick had a solid preseason with the Bears, he lost out in camp to All Pro kicker Robbie Gould.

After trying out for the Jaguars and Chargers, Nick made the roster of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008 but after an inconsistent start to his season, he’d be cut in mid-October. Not one to give up, Nick then joined the Chargers in 2010 but he’d again lose out, this time to incumbent Nate Kaeding.

Nick then took the path less traveled. He joined the upstart United Football League. While playing for the Florida Tuskers, Nick was 24/24 on extra points and 15/18 on field goals (69 points). He’d also hit a league record 54 yard field goal. He’d earn Special Teams Player of the Week Honors twice, and then later be named the UFL Special Teams MVP at the conclusion of the season.

Again after signing with the Jets this time, Nick lost out to Nick Folk. He’d be welcomed back to the Chargers, where he spent the next five seasons. Over those meritorious seasons Nick set field goal percentile records and consecutive field goal records for San Diego and ended up 6th all-time in scoring for the franchise with 503 points.

Nick signed with the Houston Texans in 2015, where he again set franchise records hitting 35/41 field goals in 2016. The Texans in 2017 decided to get younger at the position, and went with Ka’imi Fairbairn.

Novak proved you could indeed return home- well sort of- as he was signed by the nomadic Los Angeles Chargers in 2017 replacing the current kicker Younghoo Koo, but Novak himself was injured just two short months later.

Nick joined his 4th league in 2018, playing for the Birmingham Iron of the AAF. He finished 13/16 on field goals, including a 47 yard long, and earned AAF Special Teams Player of the Week Honors for his Week 1 effort. – The league would be shuddered after the 8th game.

For some reason his certified autograph has hovered pretty solidly at about $10.00 on Ebay. – Most expensive kicker ever! Anyway I got lucky and got a great deal on his certified for not even half that price.

In 2019, Nick’s journey continued as he was drafted by the LA Wildcats of the XFL 2020 initiative. He was 2-5 with a long of 47 yards before he aggravated an injury after 4 games.