Denfeld News

Jan. 15, 2010
Duluth News Tribune

Former Denfeld star ready to tackle Europe
By Jon Nowacki

Former Duluth Denfeld star athlete Matt Lien will celebrate his 24th birthday on Saturday by embarking on the trip of a lifetime.

Lien, a standout football, basketball and baseball player for the Hunters before graduating in 2004, is heading to Barcelona, Spain, to play professional football for the L’Hospitalet Pioners of the European Football League.

Lien didn’t want to discuss the specifics of his contract, but said his food, housing, cell phone and transportation will be covered.

“It’s enough money to have fun while experiencing the culture, that’s for sure,” Lien said. “I took Spanish for a couple years in high school and college, so I’ll be able to communicate, but one of my goals in going over there is to absorb myself in the culture.”

Lien turned down offers closer to home to attend Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., where the safety was third on the team in tackles his last two seasons. As a Vikings senior captain in 2008, he had 90 tackles, three quarterback sacks and four interceptions.

Lien graduated in January 2009 with a degree in sports administration before getting his first professional football stint as a safety for the Sioux Falls Storm of the Indoor Football League.

The IFL largely consists of NCAA Division II and I-AA players, but also has featured former DI and NFL players such as Oregon State quarterback Terrance Bryant, Florida State wide receiver Peter Warrick and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Ben Nelson. Lien started nine of the Storm’s 15 games.

“The Storm have had a lot of success with Division II players from around here, and Matt is a good example of that,” Augustana coach Brad Salem said. “He’ll be a standout in Europe.”

Salem would know. He coached football in Paris in 1993.

European teams mandate a certain number of homegrown players per squad, and big things are expected of the Americans who are brought in. Football is America’s game, so U.S. players are considered ringers. Lien’s signing, for instance, is being featured prominently on the team’s Web site, www.pioners.org, which declares him the “polivalencia” of the defense. Basically, Mr. Versatility.

“I told Matt to stay for a few weeks after the season and enjoy it,” Salem said. “That’s something I never did and kind of regret because you might never get back there. It goes fast.”

With the help of his older brother, Pete, who served as his unofficial sports agent, Matt Lien looked at teams in Italy and France for two weeks in July but went with the Pioners because they would let the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder play safety instead of linebacker. His first game is Jan. 23.

Lien is interested into going into law school like his father, Duluth lawyer Mike Lien, but said that can wait.

“This is a new opportunity,” Lien said. “The thing I’m most excited about is having the chance to live and become part of a new culture. To continue to play football is just a bonus.”

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