XENIA — Thursday June 7 was perhaps one of the more hot-n-muggy days of the spring thus far, but that didn’t keep 50 or so of the nation’s top collegiate football players from preparing for the World Championships.
For the second year, the Athletes In Action Sports Complex has been the host to the USA Team Football organization, a group of selected college football players from all over the country, who will be competing June 14-24 at the World University American Football Championship in Songbei District Harbin, Heilongjiang, China.
“It’s the highest level of international American football,” explained Recruiting Coordinator Tyler Warner. “… It’s a true USA team. Our punter behind me is from Cal, and our placekicker is from Texas. We have guys from every single NCAA Division I conference, and every single division level of college football.”
Warner said the Team USA roster had to be shuffled a bit when five original members of the squad were signed to NFL or Canadian Football League professional contracts. All players involved in the event must have amateur status to participate.
Sanctioned by the International University Sports Federation (FISU), the World University Championship of American Football is held every two years. Team USA will join seven other teams for the tournament, including top-seeded Mexico which won the tournament in both 2014 and 2016.
Warner was hesitant to release his team’s roster, because Mexico team officials have been trying to acquire the U.S. roster for their scouting efforts. Team USA enters the tournament as the No. 2 seed, and Warner didn’t hide the fact that the team has a certain chip on its collective shoulders about being the No. 2 seed from America, playing an American Football tournament.
Former University of Toledo Rockets head coach Tom Amstutz will coach Team USA. The retired coach relished the chance to get back on the sidelines with some of college football’s finest athletes.
“I got offered this opportunity and I just couldn’t turn it down,” Amstutz said, while watching the Team USA defensive linemen run a gap drill. “It’s an honor to be a coach again and to be a positive influence in their lives, and to go to a place like China to play American football. I don’t think we, as a country, realized how many countries like to play American football. I’m really excited to go to China, and to be a positive ambassador to the other countries. We’re heading over to show them that we love football and we’re also good sports, and want to be good ambassadors to them.”
The team will fly to Harbin, China late Sunday, June 10, and the tournament will officially get under way on Thursday, June 14. Warner explained that the teams will stay in Olympic Village-style dorms on the Harbin University of Commerce campus.
Amstutz said the team has enjoyed its stay in and around the Xenia area during its brief training camp.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time here in Xenia, and this AIA Sports Complex is a beautiful facility for us to practice. It’s a city that has been very friendly, and the players and coaches have really enjoyed it,” Amstutz said.
Fans can follow the World University Championship of American Football on the FISU website’s link: http://www.fisu.net/sport-events/world-university-championships . According to the website, the 2020 championship will be held in Szekesfehervar, Hungary.