Jan. 15, 2010
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.
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
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
“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.”