Frankfurt Galaxy defensive back Jeremy Unertl spent the spring in Europe so he can hopefully spend the fall closer to home, wearing the uniform of the Green Bay Packers.
The Teresa, Wis., native will put the valuable game experience he has gained in his NFL Europe League stint to the test on Saturday, when the Galaxy take on their German rivals, the Rhein Fire, in World Bowl XI. The title tilt kicks off at 11:00 a.m. CT (FOX) from Glasgow, Scotland's venerable Hampden Park.
"This has been a long journey and a great experience," Unertl said. "Our team came together for a common goal and now we are one win away from a championship."
Unertl has been an impact player on the Galaxy defense, helping the top-ranked unit surrender just 182 points in 2003, fewest in NFL Europe.
He finished tied for the league lead with four interceptions, totaled 29 tackles, nine passes defensed and one forced fumble. Unertl also improved his game on special teams, which will be a major help when he returns to Green Bay to compete for a roster spot.
"I was never called on to play special teams in college," said Unertl, a collegiate standout at Wisconsin-LaCrosse. "I was able to learn the fundamentals and that's only going to help me down the road."
Unertl gained important game repetitions at two positions in the defensive backfield: safety and cornerback. A hard-hitting, three-year starter at safety in college, Unertl moved to cornerback for the final five games of 2003, and produced at his new position.
"I think it will only benefit me to be able to play more than one position," Unertl said. "The more things I can do, the better."
John Beake, NFL vice president of football operations, has seen countless players improve their game in NFL Europe and return to compete successfully in the NFL. In 2002, 257 NFL Europe veterans were on NFL rosters.
"There are certain things you just cannot do in practice," Beake said. "Getting experience in a game situation, with game intensity, is one of them."
And along with that experience, Unertl is hoping to bring a championship with him back to Green Bay.