Samuelson reflects after bringing American football talents to Italy

Submitted photo Samuelson drops back to pass in the ELITE vs. the Italian Federation of American Football national 19U football game on March 30.

COMFREY — When Comfrey’s Eli Samuelson got an email for an opportunity to take a trip to not only enjoy the sights and sounds of Italy but also compete against an Italian national 19U team in a football game in Varese, the decision he had to make wasn’t exactly a tough one.

Samuelson, a former standout athlete in basketball, football and track and field at Comfrey High School, got the email offer in late 2018, inviting him to join up with the American Football Worldwide ELITE team to tour Italy and take on the Italian Federation of American Football national 19U team in late March. After talking it over a couple of weeks with his parents, Samuelson decided that the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was too good to pass up.

The journey started after flying to Italy for a week of touring from March 23 to 29, culminating in the showdown between the ELITE team and the Italian 19U team on March 30 at the Velodromo Vigorelli in Milan, Italy.

“It wasn’t as much football as I thought it was going to be — the coaches told us that,” Samuelson said. “So we would have stuff like, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. we’d go out to a field and just have a little practice and just putting plays in in the offense and stuff, and then the whole day we’d just be going places and looking at stuff.”

During the sightseeing portion of the trip, Samuelson said that he was amazed at how old some of the sites and pieces of art he saw were. Samuelson’s tour was highlighted by the Colosseum in Rome and the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.

Submitted photo A team photo of AFW ELITE.

After a week of practice and touring the historic country, the game played out quite well for the Americans as the ELITE team dominated and finished with a 58-0 win.

Samuelson, splitting time with another quarterback, completed 3 of 8 passes for 66 yards and rushed for 40 yards and a touchdown on three carries.

“I had a touchdown in the beginning of the game, it was like the second touchdown of the game,” Samuelson said of his standout moment of the game. “It was — we put an option in because [coach] saw on my film that I could do that good. I just kept it and ran.”

As for team statistics and comparisons, the ELITE team cleaned up in that area also, beating Italy in first downs (18-5) and total yards on offense (420-64) while punting the ball just twice compared to Italy’s nine punts.

“When they went out, the Italian team was big and intimidating kind of, but they just didn’t have the same skill level as us,” Samuelson said. “They just didn’t have as good of coaching as us. So in the beginning, they got a sack on us and we had to punt, but then once that happened, we just kind of gave it to them.”

Submitted photo Tami, Eli and Pete Samuelson pose for a photo at the Vatican.

With athletes from all over the United States joining up with Samuelson on the ELITE team, such as kids from California, Florida, Massachusetts, Illinois and New York, Samuelson said that one of the biggest things he’ll remember from his time in Italy is all of the people he met and the pieces of history he was able to see.

“All the people I met, the guys I met, I’m still in contact with a few of them that I got to know,” he said. “And just the whole thing about seeing all of those old places is not something that many people get to do. Even to play football, to have the opportunity to play on that team, I thought that was cool.”

ON TO AUGUSTANA

Samuelson’s next chapter will be playing football at Augustana College in the fall of 2019.

With many schools on the radar, Samuelson weighed his options and ultimately decided that the right fit was as a Viking at Augustana in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Submitted photo Samuelson breaks off for a touchdown run against the Italian Federation of American Football national 19U team on March 30.

“I’ve been looking at a couple schools like, I was looking at SMSU, Bemidji State, MSU-M, Bethel, and I went on some game visits to those schools,” Samuelson said. “And this was when I wasn’t looking at Augustana, but they sent me a game invite at the end of the season. It was like the last game of the season, and I went on the visit and I thought it was a good fit. I like the coaching staff and the whole school. As a whole, I thought it was nice.”

Although many freshman don’t immediately jump into game action in their first year, Samuelson is excited for the next level of his athletic career and hopes to fit in and help the Vikings.

“Just competing at that level, it’s going to be a total change,” Samuelson said. “Going from playing 9-man in high school to playing DII college football, it’s going to be a huge change. But I just hope that I can fit in an contribute to the team.”

Submitted photo Samuelson chats with an Italian player after the game on March 30 in Milan, Italy.

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