January 6, 2011

Niekamp, Jennings sign to play in Austria

More news about: Illinois College

A chance to play professional football will take a pair of former Illinois College football players nearly 5,000 miles away from the campus where they re-wrote the school's record books.

Former players Mitch Niekamp and Mike Jennings have signed contracts to play professional football in the Austrian Football League. Niekamp and Jennings will play for the Hohenems Cineplexx Blue Devils, one of six teams in Austria and Switzerland that competes in the league's top division.

Niekamp and Jennings were courted by teams from several European leagues before they signed with the Blue Devils late last month. Jim Mader, the team's American head coach who also serves as an assistant football coach at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., liked the idea of getting Illinois College's all-time leaders in passing and receiving back on the field together.

"He was really excited about getting two players that had played together before," Jennings said. "He was really excited about the success that we had had before and the chemistry we had playing together."

Niekamp and Jennings talked to teams both together and separately. They had separate offers to play in places like Germany and Poland, but they were hoping they would be able to sign with the same team.

"Football has been a passion of mine for a long time," Niekamp said. "Getting an opportunity to continue playing – especially with one of my good friends – is a great opportunity and I'm really looking forward to it."

Teams in the AFL are only allowed to sign four American players per season, and teams typically sign two offensive players and two defensive players. Jennings said the team has already signed a middle linebacker from Florida State and is currently negotiating with a defensive back from Stanford.

The AFL season begins in mid-March. Niekamp will leave for Austria on Jan. 18, while Jennings will report on March 1. The former Illinois College players plan on sharing a condo in Hohenems.

"I'm excited that we're going to get to play together again and that we are getting to share this experience," Jennings said.

Niekamp, a native of Camp Point, Ill., finished his collegiate career this fall as Illinois College's all-time leading passer. He holds Illinois College records for passing yards in a game (467), season (3,145) and career (9,185), as well as touchdown passes in a game (6), season (31) and career (87).

Jennings, a wide receiver from Fort Madison, Iowa, who has served as an assistant football coach at Iowa Wesleyan College since graduating last spring, is the school's all-time receiving leader. He holds Illinois College records for receptions in a game (19), season (110) and career (253), in addition to receiving yards in a game (280), season (1,416) and career (3,336). He has also caught the most touchdown passes in a game (4), season (16) and career (39) at Illinois College.

Illinois College head football coach Garrett Campbell, who served as a visiting coach for the Vienna (Austria) Vikings in 2001, said he was proud of and excited for his former players.

"It's a credit to all the work they put in as student-athletes," Campbell said. "I think it's exciting when guys can continue to play and have the cultural experience of living in a foreign country."

Both Niekamp and Jennings said that playing professional football wouldn't have been possible without their experiences at Illinois College.

"I really appreciate all the opportunities Illinois College provided me," Niekamp said. "I really have to thank the great coaches and great players I played alongside at Illinois College."

comments powered by Disqus
Sep. 5: All times Eastern
TBA
Anna Maria at Worcester State
TBA
McDaniel at Catholic
7:00 PM
Albright at Kean
7:00 PM
Widener at Rowan
7:00 PM
WPI at Curry
7:00 PM
Mass-Dartmouth at Mount Ida
7:00 PM
Salve Regina at Bridgewater State
7:30 PM
Trine at Manchester
Sep. 6: All times Eastern
TBA
RPI at Norwich
TBA
Plymouth State at Castleton State
TBA
Carnegie Mellon at Case Western Reserve
TBA
St. Lawrence at Coast Guard
TBA
Thomas More at Wesley
TBA
Rhodes at Austin
TBA
Arizona Christian at George Fox
12:00 PM
Dickinson at Hobart
12:00 PM
Holland College (PEI, Canada) at Maine Maritime
Video
12:00 PM
Otterbein at St. John Fisher
12:00 PM
Union at Ithaca
1:00 PM
Lebanon Valley at Franklin and Marshall
1:00 PM
Emory and Henry at Ferrum
1:00 PM
Washington and Lee at Averett
1:00 PM
Franklin at Illinois Wesleyan
1:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Wabash
1:00 PM
Rose-Hulman at Kalamazoo
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Wilmington at Olivet
1:00 PM
Adrian at Defiance
1:00 PM
King's at Moravian
1:00 PM
Alfred State at Morrisville State
1:00 PM
Randolph-Macon at Johns Hopkins
1:00 PM
Susquehanna at Lycoming
1:00 PM
Oberlin at Brockport State
1:00 PM
Utica at Misericordia
1:00 PM
Delaware Valley at Montclair State
1:00 PM
Southern Virginia at Methodist
1:00 PM
Ohio Wesleyan at Bluffton
1:00 PM
Marietta at Kenyon
1:00 PM
Merchant Marine at Apprentice
1:30 PM
Alma at Heidelberg
1:30 PM
Berry at Maryville (Tenn.)
1:30 PM
Bridgewater (Va.) at Gettysburg
1:30 PM
Muskingum at Waynesburg
1:30 PM
St. Vincent at John Carroll
1:30 PM
Mount Union at Bethany
1:30 PM
Juniata at Grove City
2:00 PM
Sewanee at DePauw
2:00 PM
Carleton at Macalester
2:00 PM
Albion at UW-Stevens Point
2:00 PM
UW-Platteville at Buena Vista
2:00 PM
UW-Eau Claire at St. Thomas
2:00 PM
Ohio Northern at Washington U.
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
UW-River Falls at St. John's
2:00 PM
Crown at Gustavus Adolphus
2:00 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at Jamestown
2:00 PM
Simpson at Iowa Wesleyan
2:00 PM
Hope at Monmouth
2:00 PM
Lawrence at Rockford
2:00 PM
Aurora at Illinois College
2:00 PM
Carroll at Lakeland
2:00 PM
Elmhurst at Loras
2:00 PM
Millikin at Greenville
2:00 PM
Coe at Wheaton (Ill.)
2:00 PM
Central at Benedictine
2:00 PM
Presentation at Luther
2:00 PM
Martin Luther at Maranatha Baptist
2:00 PM
MacMurray at Culver-Stockton
2:00 PM
Eureka at Knox
2:00 PM
UW-Stout at Dakota Wesleyan
2:00 PM
Huntingdon at Louisiana College
3:00 PM
St. Norbert at Carthage
4:00 PM
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at Puget Sound
4:00 PM
Pomona-Pitzer at MIT
4:00 PM
Lewis and Clark at Whitworth
5:00 PM
Hartwick at Western Connecticut
6:00 PM
Salisbury at Christopher Newport
7:00 PM
Stevenson at N.C. Wesleyan
7:00 PM
Butler at Wittenberg
Live Stats Video
7:00 PM
Shenandoah at Gallaudet
Audio
7:00 PM
Wooster at Washington and Jefferson
7:00 PM
Greensboro at Guilford
7:00 PM
Geneva at Frostburg State
7:00 PM
Thiel at Allegheny
7:00 PM
Concordia (Wis.) at North Park
7:00 PM
Beloit at Chicago
Live Stats
7:00 PM
LaGrange at Birmingham-Southern
7:00 PM
Howard Payne at Trinity (Texas)
7:00 PM
Mary Hardin-Baylor at Millsaps
7:00 PM
Sul Ross State at Texas Lutheran
7:00 PM
Robert Morris-Chicago at UW-Oshkosh
7:30 PM
Hanover at Centre
8:00 PM
St. Olaf at Northwestern (Minn.)
8:00 PM
Hamline at Minnesota-Morris
8:00 PM
Lake Forest at Wisconsin Lutheran
8:00 PM
Wartburg at Augsburg
8:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Southwestern
Dec. 20: All times Eastern
Final
at UW-Whitewater 52, Mount Union 14
@ Salem Stadium; Salem, Va.
Box Score Recap Photos Photos
Dec. 14: All times Eastern
Final
UW-Whitewater 16, at Mary Hardin-Baylor 15
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
at Mount Union 41, North Central (Ill.) 40
Box Score Recap Recap Photos

What We're Reading