Third Time’s a Charm for Nordmen; Sign Veteran QB Dustin Hawke Willingham

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Plans haven’t quite worked out at the quarterback position for the Rovaniemi Nordmen in 2021, but with the signing of Dustin Hawke the Warriors of the Four Winds hope to right the ship and showcase what their offense is capable of.

To say it’s been a rough start to the 2021 season for the Rovaniemi Nordmen would be an understatement. It began when would-be HC/QB Stan Bedwell was invited to join The Spring League’s Linemen in April. The Linemen’s victory in the Mega Bowl, led to new opportunities for Bedwell that he couldn’t refuse. Seeking to fill the hole left by his sudden departure, the Nordmen acquired the rights to recently dismissed Søllerød Gold Diggers QB, Aaron Ellis. Ellis was supposed to suit up with the Nordmen during their game last week with the Tampere Saints, but a sudden turn of events for the European League of Football’s Stuttgart Surge, saw Ellis pull the rug out from under the Nordmen and jet off to Germany before he could even take a snap under center. With the quarantine-free transfer period having passed, the Nordmen made plans to prepare with Jens Ole Kaae once again at quarterback; but the hunt was on for a long-term replacement to lead the Nordmen offense. Enter, Dustin Hawke; a veteran QB of over a decade in Europe.

Dustin Hawke with the Zaragoza Hurricanes (Spanish League)

“To say that we were surprised by Aaron’s decision would be putting it very lightly,” said Nordmen Marketing & Communications Director, Rob Patterson. “We took it rather personally and did not approve of the way that Stuttgart sniped in and metaphorically stole him away from us. That’s how it goes sometimes with these bigger clubs, though, and it would appear as there’s no honor among thieves, as they say.” Nevertheless, the Nordmen set out to find their third quarterback of the 2021 season. “We joked that we were like the Cleveland Browns with them having gone through 28 QBs since 1999, but we’re confident that we’ve found our guy for 2021 with Dustin,” states Patterson.

With a CV as long as War & Peace, Hawke joins the Nordmen with over a decade of experience in Europe; playing for some of the premier clubs on the continent. Most recently having played in Spain with the Zaragoza Hurricanes, Hawke had been training and coaching youth at the quarterback position in Budapest, Hungary, when he got a message from Nordmen’s “import guy”, Alfonso Ikäheimo. After a couple days of working out all the details, a contract was struck and Hawke made his way to Rovaniemi on Tuesday, July 13th. Eariler this spring, American Football International published an insightful and interesting article that chronicled Dustin’s journey, trials and tribulations during his football career. He’ll look to add to that story in Rovaniemi this summer.

Rather than conduct the kind of interview that everyone has seen before, we asked Dustin to share some of his story and to explain to us the kind of person and player he is:

My journey has been a wild one to say the least. I’m grateful for every experience; mostly good, except one. Even with the failure, I’ve found silver linings within each experience that have enabled me to grow as a man and perfect my offensive and defensive systems as a coach. Failure was my biggest teacher unfortunately,but however worked as a great motivator, as well. I’m getting older and I have to train all the time to stay competitive and zoned-in within the framework of competing. This current situation has been a somewhat rough transition, but also a beautiful one. I’ve kept my mind open to everything and it’s helped me adapt to the “Finnish” style, as I’ve noticed every country and the teams within each country operate very differently from one another, but at the end of the day it’s just football and I know this game very well. As my journey continues, while knowing the end of my playing career is near, I focus on giving every bit of myself to my teammates and the game as I can so that when I do let the game go, I can be at peace with what I did and how I did it. I love this game more than anything I’ve ever known and this game has in turn loved me back and I am so grateful for each experience. I owe the game & my teammates my very best and I intend to give all the effort I can give while having the best attitude I can have, no matter the adversity or obstacles a team may face throughout a season.

The guys here have had a rough start, I hope to help build our offense day by day and help my teammates be better each day and that all starts with me and my approach and mindset to make that a reality. My mentor and father figure from my teenage years is a judge back home where I grew up and he used to say, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” so along my journey I’ve come back to this as the words are as potent as they are true. I think my team here knows how much I care and I think they’re starting to understand and learn how much I know about this beautiful game. I’ve made some very big sacrifices to be here and experience Finland; I will not let those sacrifices be made for nothing. So we have much work to do, but we’ve gotten a lot done this week. Win, lose or tie on Saturday, all I care about is how we play the game.

Can we give everything we have while doing each of our individual jobs as a unit working for one common goal, every single play throughout the entire game? As far fetched as this may seem, this is the goal. Above all, this game is fun, so I’m going to try and have fun on Saturday as I’m not sure how many more games I will play and I wanna make them count. When this game is over, it’s over & I cannot live with myself not playing to my own expectations, but it’s the greatest team game known to modern man for a reason. It takes a TEAM to win games and for plays to be successful. Saturday, I hope we come out and go hard in the paint for 4 quarters. If we do that, I believe we’ll be in a position to win at the end of the game.

Dustin Hawke Willingham

Gelling well with the current group of Nordmen import players, Hawke is ready and eager to take the field this Saturday for Rovaniemi’s home opener against the Kotka Eagles. Kickoff is at 5pm at Susivouti. Tickets are 10€ for adults (18+), 5€ for juniors (13-17) and under 13 get in for free.

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