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Admirals Kick off 2003 Season Against Rhein Fire

April 2, 2003 - National Football League Europa (NFLE) - Amsterdam Admirals News Release

The Amsterdam Admirals open the 2003 season on Saturday with a trip to the new Arena Aufschalke in Gelsenkirchen, Germany to face the Rhein Fire. After a productive training camp, Head Coach Bart Andrus and the Admrials are anxious to get the season started. Out to spoil the Fire’s first outing in their new stadium. “We should feel right at home,” Andrus said. “From what I’ve heard, it’s a carbon copy of the (Amsterdam) ArenA.” Although they are playing in a new setting, Andrus is hoping to continue the recent success he and his Admirals have had over the Fire and continue their three game winning streak. The last time that Rhein beat the Admirals was in early 2001, and the Admirals hold the advantage in the overall series, 10 wins to six losses. The Admirals start this season off with lofty goals. Being the only NFL Europe team to have not won a World Bowl, Amsterdam has their sights set high. All through training camp, different players have discussed their goal of bringing a Championship to Amsterdam for the first time. Shaun Hill, the guy under center when the season gets under way: “A lot of guys are taking pride in the fact that we can become the first team to win a championship for Amsterdam.”

The Admirals are also looking to break their streak of 4-6 seasons, which has been their record for the past four years. A winning season would avoid tying a record for most consecutive losing seasons: the London Monarchs had five straight of such seasons in between 1992 and 1998. For returning players, the hunger for a World Bowl Championship is even stronger. This year, the Admirals have a number of returners including kickers Silvio Diliberto and Joe O’Donnell, linebackers Dwan Epps, and Masafumi Kawaguchi, offensive linemen Rob Gatrell and Michael Jonsson and tight end Kirk McMullen who was with the Admirals in 2001. To bring leadership to his squad, Andrus opted during the preseason to bring in some NFL Europe veterans. Linebacker Tony Ortiz (Claymores 2002) and cornerback Jordan Younger (Fire 2001/2002) are among the team’s elite players sure to make an impression in 2003.


The Admirals are not only looking forward to kicking off their season, they are also excited about having the chance to spoil the Fire’s opening game in their new stadium. The players who have never been to an NFL Europe game have heard many rumors about the noise level and they are anxious to find out how it will really be. “They keep saying that it’s louder than all the stadiums in the states but we’ll see,” said wide receiver Matthew Hatchette who has played many games with the Minnesota Vikings. “The Metrodome can get pretty loud, so if it’s louder than that, I’ll be shocked.”

Head Coach Bart Andrus has played in many stadiums and knows how important crowd noise is to winning a football game. He is also aware how the design of the new stadium will affect the noise.

“Their stadium is going to be even louder now,” Andrus stated. “But we’ve taken the appropriate measures to tackle that obstacle.” Those measures include having artificial crowd noise pumped into the Admirals practices this week to get the offense used to working under unfavorable conditions.

In addition to being concerned with the level of noise in the stadium, Andrus is even more worried about the game plan itself. This will be the first chance for the team to show in front of a large audience what they can do on the football field. “I'm very much looking forward to this game,” said Andrus. “Both teams are evenly well-matched. We anticipate to have a successful start and in order to do that our timing has to be right. I know the coaches at Rhein very well and we know what to expect from them. It's going to be an interesting chess match with Pete (Kuharchek)." The Admirals are looking to make history this season and that can all start on Sunday. They have yet to win an opening game on the road. Their overall record is a disappointing 2-6 on opening day, with both wins and one loss coming at home. Defensively, Coordinator Larry Owens and his crew are looking to break another record. Rhein Fire have never been shutout. If the Admirals were to keep them from scoring on Saturday, it would be the first time in all 80 games in Fire history. TEAM NOTES

· Although they’ve only been in Amsterdam for about a week, the small amount of time here has proved very eventful. The team arrived in Holland on March 26 but they were not complete until March 29 with the appearance of veteran Admiral linebacker Masafumi Kawaguchi. Kawaguchi missed training camp, but has joined the team for his sixth NFL E-season and will be ready to play this Saturday.

· In celebration of Kawaguchi’s return and the team’s arrival in Europe, the team had a bowling night on the 29th which resulted in fun, bonding, and one case of a slight injury. Linebacker Dwan Epps took a spill while trying to bowl a strike and has been seen in practice since then with a bandage adorning his forehead. Other than this minor incident, the evening was a success.

· In a recent move, the Berlin Thunder picked up Teto Simpson, a defensive end who was on Amsterdam’s practice squad. Simpson left Amsterdam for Berlin on Tuesday morning to prepare for Berlin’s game this Sunday against the Scottish Claymores. Simpson was disappointed to leave the teammates he had grown close to, but is looking forward to getting a chance to be active.

The Admirals have won the last three games against Rhein Fire, bringing the balance of coach Andrus’ encounters with his former collegea Pete Kuharchek to 3-1.

Andrus has not lost to a Kuharchek led team since April 21, 2001. Even then, the Admirals had a chance to win the game, until they fumbled the ball away on the Rhein Fire 20 yard line with under a minute to go.

Of the four Admirals-wins last year, three came against World Bowl finalists Rhein Fire and Berlin Thunder. The Admirals swept last years series with 27-10 (home) and 28-10 wins.




An Admiral who is looking for great things this season is wide receiver Justin Skaggs. He is modeling his career after Kurt Warner, a player with similar experiences and similar values and Skaggs hopes he can also experience similar success. "He really inspired me in college," Skaggs said of Warner. "After reading his book, it really boosted my faith because he came from a small school, played in the arena league and I did the same thing. It just inspired me."

The parallels between the two athletes are remarkable. Both played football at small colleges, Warner at Northern Iowa, and Skaggs at Evangel University in Missouri. After college, Warner spent two seasons with the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League; Skaggs spent three games with the Tulsa Talons of Arena League 2.

Now that Skaggs is in Amsterdam, where Warner started at quarterback in 1998, the coincidences are too many to ignore. Skaggs too has noticed the connections and allowed Warner to be a role model for him. "I really look up to him because of his faith, his hard work and his determination," Skaggs noted, "plus we have similar stories".

In addition to their similar paths in football, both have strong religious beliefs that help them stay centered. When Skaggs finished college, he was unsure if he should pursue his dream of playing football professionally. He prayed about it and ended up using Warner's book, All Things Possible: My Story of Faith, Football and the Miracle, as a source of inspiration. Skaggs used his determination and faith to eventually land in the NFL. Near the end of his college career, Skaggs used the academic office of his school to dub videotapes to send out to pro teams. He did not have enough money to make one for every team, so he made 23 and sent them out. "Two teams responded to let me know they were not interested," Skaggs recalled. "Nobody else even called back. Except the Redskins. They were the only team that showed any interest.”

After impressing the Redskins' scouts enough to get a try out, he landed on the team's practice squad. Now, in Amsterdam, he has a chance to follow in Warner's footsteps and lead the Admirals to victory. Only this time, he is hoping to outdo his idol and earn himself and his teammates their first World Bowl Championship. "I've set my goals high, of course," Skaggs admitted, "I want to go to the World Bowl. I want to help my team go to the World Bowl and win." TELEVISION

Saturday’s contest will be broadcast in the United States on Fox Sports Net at 1pm EST (delay). In de broadcast booth with SPERO DEDES as game analyst is former linebacker BRIAN JONES, whoe spent four of his last eight NFL-seasons with the New Orleans Saints and posted 42 tackles for the Claymores in 1995.

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