Zach Bartlow isn’t hanging up the football cleats just yet.
The former standout quarterback for Eastern Oregon will be joining the Prague Lions of the Czech Republic’s Czech League of American Football next month for the upcoming season, which Bartlow said starts in April and runs through June, with playoffs in July.
It will be the second gig with a European football team in as many years for Bartlow, who spent last spring with the Turku Trojans in Finland, a position he landed in midseason after the Trojans started 0-4, scored five points total in four games and were in need of a capable quarterback.
“The team in Finland had another quarterback not work out, and they needed a quarterback ASAP. It was really a last-minute thing,” Bartlow said.
Bartlow noted that most teams in the smaller European leagues bring in American players as their quarterbacks with the sport not having the traction of other popular sports in Europe, such as soccer.
“It’s like a club sport over there, like la crosse or a hockey team,” he said of European football.
Bartlow started last year trying to garner NFL and CFL invitations. In the process, his name was picked up by teams in Europe, including Turku.
When the needed for a quarterback arose for the Trojans, they reached out.
Bartlow had an immediate impact. Turku went 3-5 in its final eight games with Bartlow running the offense.
“The offense was scoring points, at least, and we won three games. It was a good feeling to have an impact on the team,” he said.
Bartlow has since returned to La Grande, where he is working on his MBA online through EOU, and spent last season as an assistant quarterbacks coach for the Mountaineers.
But his stint with Turku got him noticed.
“Once you’re in the European database you get a lot of offers,” Bartlow said.
Several teams showed interest in Bartlow, but Zach Harrod, the offensive coordinator for Prague, pushed for Bartlow to join the Lions.
“The coach really has invested in getting to know me and pursuing me,” Bartlow said. “He brought me down to Prague for two days. He showed interest in me.”
The pursuit by Harrod paid off, as did Bartlow’s interest in the city.
“I really felt like the city of Prague was one of the best choices,” he said.
He also won’t be facing much, if any competition for his spot on the team.
“I’m pretty much guaranteed. They’re bringing me over there to be the starting quarterback,” he said. “The smaller leagues, which the Czech Republic is and Finland is — basically everything besides Germany — you’re brought over to be the starting QB. It’s really a player-coach role, and that’s why they bring the American players over there. QBs are almost always American.”
Bartlow also noted an interesting rule limiting the number of players from America on a given team.
“You can only have a certain amount. In Finland it’s three. In Czech Republic it’s two,” he said.
The time in Europe has also given Bartlow an opportunity to travel.
“One of the main things I enjoyed is seeing the world while I’m young. A lot of people don’t get the opportunity,” he said.
He joins a team in Prague that went 5-5 last season, but he doesn’t know what to expect this season.
“The year before they made a deep playoff run,” he said. “It’s a situation where you go over there and you don’t know what to expect every year. The turnover is pretty big.”
He intends to return after the season to complete his MBA in the fall. And though he’s not certain, he said this may be his final time on the football field.
“Hopefully (I’ll) have one last good season,” he said.