Heja Sverige! Luleå Eskimo’s players strengthen Nordmen roster

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A total of six Luleå Eskimos players will be joining the Rovaniemi Nordmen for the upcoming season.

If you’re Finnish or have lived in Finland for a while, you’ve likely heard all sorts of jokes back and forth between Finns and Swedes. A lot of the jokes are based on stereotypes — but as an American writing this, I can tell you that they’re pretty damn accurate on both sides! One thing we can certainly say, beyond any shadow of a doubt, is this: Swedes can ball. That was evident last year when three Luleå Eskimos suited up in Nordmen blue, and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Warriors of the Four Winds, on their way to a 3rd Division Championship. Two of those Eskimos are back this season, Ronald Munoz & Axl Isaksson, but another four have joined the ranks and are pumped for the upcoming season. Let’s introduce them and break them down a bit as players.

First, let’s go over our returning Eskimos, beginning with Ronald Munoz. A strong and skilled lineman, Ronald (originally from Chile) is known for his grit and unwillingness to let anyone get the better of him. He’s just the kind of teammate you want on your sideline, as was evidenced during the 2018 semi-final game against the Rusko Mayhem when an unnecessary roughness penalty committed by a visibly frustrated Mayhem player against the Nordmen’s Jukka-Pekka Katilainen got Ronald fired up and took his game to another level. We’re looking forward to having him back this year not only for his level of play, but also his great sense of humor!

Next on our list of returning Eskimos is running back, Axl Isaksson. Axl saw good action last year, impressing with his hard running style and good footwork. A very solid blocker, Axl is able take some serious punishment, but keeps his motor running and his legs pumping as he fights for every yard he gains. After seeing him in action at the Nordmen’s pre-season camp at the end of March, I made two conclusions: Axl has gotten stronger and faster. He was in great shape and moved very well both with and without the ball; picking up blocks very well and shedding defenders, whether he was running in between the tackles or around the end. His hands looked very solid too, and could be a potential threat on backfield screens or in short routes coming out of the backfield

As for the Eskimo newcomers, let’s start on the defensive side of the ball with linebacker Adrian Rodriguez. When he introduced himself at camp, he said he was old, but that he just wanted to get out there and hit people. I was a fan right away! Adrian (originally from New Zealand) has a strong rugby background and it showed early and often during the Nordmen’s second practice of their pre-season camp. Adrian looked like he could have done all of it without the pads on, too. Much faster than you might expect him to be, he provided consistent pressure on the O-line and showed great quickness on QB hurries and in pursuit of the ball carrier. Adrian will join the ranks of an already stout Nordmen defense, hoping to provide depth and strength for the front seven.

The Eskimos contingent consisted of an additional three new offensive players, all of which had great skills and fit in well with the Nordmen scheme. The first of them was offensive lineman, Tom Engström. At 1.95m, Tom is the tallest player on the Nordmen roster. In addition to his size and strength (Tom weighs 130 and handles himself very well) it was his quickness and agility that impressed me during the camp. He had great footwork and I can’t recall him losing a battle on the o-line at all. His handwork was great and when he got time at center, he looked downright awesome. I couldn’t help but think about his potential at left tackle. A guy like that guarding your blind side and pancaking DE’s & LB’s on run plays? Hell yeah, we’ll take someone like that!

Last year’s Nordmen roster had a collection of sure-handed receivers that almost always seemed to come through in a pinch. With the addition of Maxim Sandlund to the wide receiver corps, the Nordmen look to have a lethal aerial attack for the upcoming season. Maxim is fast, has great hands, and is not afraid to take a shot over the middle. He may be the smallest wide-out on the roster (172/72), but like many of the similar-bodied, slot receivers that have made a vast impact on the game over the last 10-15 years (Wes Welker, Jordy Nelson, Jarvis Landry, Julian Edelman and so many more), Maxim isn’t afraid to get in there and take the hit, so long as it moves the ball forward and helps his team. His grit, solid hands and speed are going to be tough for teams without a deep secondary — especially if the Nordmen go with three-wide sets.

Last, but most certainly not least, we come to Grace “G” Bavula Jr. Measuring in at 1.79m and weighing 100 kilos, G is just the kind of running back that a team dreams of having. He’s got size, speed and he hits like Mike Tyson in his prime. He runs like he has something to prove; almost as if someone challenged him to come at them before the snap. Bad move, because this guy will truck you up and then break off a big one. Comfortable running between the tackles or around the end, G adds even more depth to a Nordmen running game that is going to force teams to stack more on the line just to stop him; leaving opposing secondaries vulnerable to the superb Rovaniemi passing attack. Good feet, a motor that doesn’t quit and solid field vision? Sure, we’ll take him too!

Photo credits: Luleå Eskimos

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