Graphic: Igor Lazarevic
When the Reykjavik Einherjar from Iceland went searching for a coach recently, little did the itinerant group know that they would attract the services of a kindred soul.
The Einherjar have been a team searching for games and taking on traveling opponents for the past seven years. Meanwhile, Stan Bedwell spent 15 years traipsing back and forth across Europe playing and coaching. In fact, since 2006, he has played or coached for 15 different teams, a number of them twice, throwing for 37,000 yards and 439 touchdowns while accumulating six championship titles. More recently, the veteran has truly proven his chops after serving as offensive coordinator and backup quarterback for The Spring League champions, the TSL Linemen.
Who better suited then to take on the task of coaching a team from an island nation located 1,200 miles north of London, England and as remote as it gets in terms of American football? The team spends most of the year practicing, while trolling the international American football community for games.
Despite their remote location, over the past five years the team has hosted teams from Finland, Sweden, Austria, Norway, Germany, the United States and Great Britain, winning nine games and losing five. They lost to Finland’s Kuopio Steelers in 2019 as well as the American semi-pro team the Empire State Wolfpack. Prior to that in 2018, they defeated the Carinthian Lions from Austria while also beating Swedish semifinalists, the Uppsala 86ers 39-27. They traveled to Mallorca in late October 2017 to play the Spanish first division team the Mallorca Voltors. Reykjavík won the game, 21-14.
In spite of all his success, Bedwell admits that heading to Iceland to do what he loves best, has actually been a dream.
AFI: What was the main reason you chose to return to Europe to coach in Iceland?
Bedwell: I have been infatuated with Iceland ever since I was a child. I remember going to a bookstore when I was about ten years old and I was looking at travel books. I found one on Iceland and I couldn’t put it down. I’ve always described it as the most beautiful country in the world, although I’ve never been there. I am currently waiting on a few professional opportunities to open up in the United States, but to have the opportunity to see my “dream country” and it’s vast landscapes in the meantime was hard for me to turn down.
AFI: How much do you know about the Einherjar?
Bedwell: As a veteran in European football, I can remember when the Einherjar first started their team. I thought it was so cool that they were going to play football in Iceland and really wanted to be a part of that. What surprised me is how talented these guys are and how competitive they’ve been against much more experienced football teams from a number of different countries. I know there’s a lot of good football players there, a really nice facility, and a strong desire to continue developing their team and the sport in the city of Reykjavik and the rest of Iceland.
AFI: What can you hope to achieve with a team that can only play 3-5 games a year?
Bedwell: From what I understand we will be playing two games for sure against teams from the UK. Honestly, the games themselves will be the players’ reward for their hard work. The outcome of those games is not as important to me as teaching these guys football, helping them improve on the field, creating a unique culture, and advancing the interest in our sport throughout Iceland. There is a strong interest in the American football among the youth in Reykjavik and I’m very excited about working with different schools to further spread awareness.
AFI: When will you arrive and how long do you plan on staying?
Bedwell: I plan to arrive in mid-February and the initial plan is for me to be there about 6-8 weeks. I’m not sure what the future holds for me after that, but I definitely hope to be involved with the Einherjar going forward in one capacity or another. It’s amazing what they’re doing there, and I’m blessed to be a part of it.
AFI: You are pretty busy. Tell us a little about what you will be up to over the next few months.
Bedwell: I’m currently doing an online workshop series teaching the entire air raid offense that has been extremely success so far. I have three more sessions left that I hope to finish before I head to Iceland. Additionally, I’m working as a consultant for a handful of high schools across America that are bringing me in to teach the offense over three-day periods. In January, I’ll be attending the annual AFCA Convention where my mentor (and inventor of the air raid) Hal Mumme, AJ Smith (very talented young coach), and myself will be hosting an Air Raid Clinic. I’ll also be coaching alongside Coach Mumme in The Cajun Bowl, an All-Star game for NFL Draft-eligible seniors that will be held in Beaumont, TX on February 12th. When we finish that up, I’ll be heading over to Iceland.
AFI: You have had a career for the ages playing and coaching in multiple countries with a variety of different teams. What memories stick out the most?
Bedwell: Pretty tough to whittle it down to just a few because I’ve been blessed to have so many incredible memories during my time in Europe. Winning my first national championship with the Kragujevac Wild Boars in 2008, after the team went 0-7 the previous year, definitely stands out. The 2013 season with the Turku Trojans was amazing because I was able to play alongside and win a championship with my close friend Aki Jones in his final season in Europe…he tragically passed away the following year, so I’ll always hold that year dear to me. The 2016 & 17 seasons in Finland with the Hameenlinna Huskies are also very special to me because I loved that team and city with all of my heart. I was completely content with living there permanently…it was home to me and those guys were like family. Lastly, having the opportunity to play in The Spring League in 2021 on the Fox television network alongside a ton of former NFL coaches and players was the pinnacle of my career. Moments like throwing a touchdown pass and holding up the championship trophy on national TV was unreal. To have my story told to millions was all I could ever ask for. I decided to retire right there on the field after winning The Mega Bowl because I knew that I realistically can’t top that feeling as a player at my age. It was the perfect ending to a long & amazing career.
To find out more about the Air Raid Quick Game Workshop clinics held by Stan Bedwell, click here.