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While NFL coaches, scouts and agents were haggling over several of his teammates during last weekend's draft, David Odenthal has had a chorus of major corporations bending his ear and tugging at his sleeve, attempting to lure him into the boardroom.
The starting center for the University of Toledo for the past two seasons, Odenthal had to tell the corporate big shots he'll get back to them - he's not ready to give up on football and put on a three-piece suit just yet.
Odenthal, a native of Germany who will complete work on his MBA in international business this week, wants to play football professionally in his homeland first, and then embark on that business career.
"I still have that desire to play the game, and I realize that if I don't explore that right away, it will be very difficult to do it later on," Odenthal said. "I'm just not ready to give up on football, and I'm excited about the opportunity to play in Germany [in NFL Europe]."
UT coach Tom Amstutz said Odenthal, one of just three native Germans to play Division I-A football in the United States this past season, had options most college graduates don't see.
"He's got big corporations like DaimlerChrysler offering him a lot of money to go to work for them right now," Amstutz said. "David's got a lot to offer since he has that education and speaks both languages, and these companies want him pretty bad."
The son of a German mother and father, Odenthal emigrated from Iran to Germany at the age of 17, attended the NFL Europe scouting combine in Florida recently, and said he found the opportunity that came from the combine too tempting to pass up.
"I think I made a pretty good impression in front of the scouts, and when you start thinking about playing football professionally, and playing in my hometown, this is something I really need to go after," Odenthal said.
He will return to Germany next week, to his hometown of Cologne, and join the Cologne Centurions of NFL Europe at some point. Since the NFL Europe season is already a month old, the 6-foot-3, 295 pound Odenthal won't move onto the active roster unless an injury creates an opening, but he has been guaranteed a position for next season.
When American professional football came to Europe about 15 years ago, each team had to carry four non-American players, and in their desperation to meet that quota they took Russian bobsledders and East German track stars who had never before touched a football. Now the league has been reduced from 10 teams to six, and each is required to have at least eight "nationals" or non-Americans on their roster.
"It's not the NFL, but it's professional football and some very good players are in the league right now," Odenthal said. "There have been a number of guys who used NFL Europe as a stepping stone into the NFL here in the States, but right now I'm just looking at it as an opportunity to continue playing the sport."
Odenthal said he will coach a club team in Germany while he waits for the opportunity to step in with the Centurions. He expects one day to use his degree and his bilingual ability to work both sides of the pond in the business world.
"That will come, but now I leave here with some very valuable memories," Odenthal said. "I got to play college football in the U.S., I got to be a part of two MAC championships, and I played in a couple of bowl games. I had the chance to play football with some great guys and make some friendships I'll keep for life. I'm taking all of that back to Germany with me."
Odenthal, who five years ago used his savings to fly to the U.S., and armed only with a sack full of videotapes from his games with his club team in Germany pitched himself to the UT coaches as a sound investment, hopes to help other German players follow that route.
"Toledo took a shot at me, and they'd never had a German football player before," Odenthal said. "I think it worked out great all the way around. My playing days for the Rockets are over, but I hope this game is still a big part of my life."
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