Former Maryville Tennessee quarterback making his mark in Sweden.
In a three-year span Philip Juhlin went from quarterbacking the Maryville Rebels during a state playoff run to signing a letter of intent with Carson-Newman College to boarding a flight bound for Sweden to play for the Kristianstad AFC Predators.
"I think the opportunity I have to play internationally is something that I need to take advantage of," Juhlin said. "I have the chance to do something that not a lot of people in the world can say they did."
The journey from Maryville to Carson-Newman to Sweden wasn't started by a desire to play and experience living overseas. He was having trouble balancing life as both a college student and as a college football player. Not helping the situation was the fact that Carson-Newman used a run-heavy offense — and Juhlin being more comfortable in an offense that relies on the passing game.
So after a season at Carson-Newman, Juhlin left.
"I decided to just be a student," he said. "I needed to focus on being a student. I did a semester Pellissippi State and started missing (football)."
After talking it over with a friend, Juhlin started an online account with http://www.europlayers.com and explored opportunities to play overseas. The website works as a intermediary for European teams looking for American players and coaches interested in relocating there. The same website helped Kristianstad recruit both Juhlin and his head coach, Jon Walker.
"I didn’t have a plan to come over here," Juhlin said. "I just signed up to see what would happen and the offers just started rolling in."
In many of the European leagues, teams are limited in the number of Americans they can have on their roster and on the field at any given time. Juhlin, however, by graces of dual citizenship, doesn't count against Kristianstad's maximum of three Americans on the roster and one on the field at a time, which is a big advantage for Kristianstad, even though Juhlin says he's still the only American on the roster.
"The biggest advantage an American QB has over a QB from Sweden is that he is used to the high level of commitment it takes to be successful at the game," Walker said in an email to The Daily Times. "His dual citizenship is very valuable to the club."
After seeing all of the opportunities available to him, Juhlin focused his search on Sweden, where he had some familiarity and some family.
"I've visited here, I want to say every year since I was 10," Juhlin said. "But there's been some years when we haven't made it. We actually lived over here for a year. I went to kindergarten here."
Juhlin said the recruiting process, from signing up on http://www.europlayers.com to joining the Predators, took only four months and included a trip to visit teams he was considering.
The first stop on that trip was Kristianstad. He met with the team owner and the coach of the under-19 team. He saw the town and talked with the team about the living arrangements. It didn't take long for Juhlin to make up his mind.
"The first stop I made was here," he said. "I just kind of skipped the other visits."
Juhlin made the move to Sweden in January and immediately began preparing for a season that started at the end of April, all while adjusting to a new language and living on his own for the first time.
But the transition, which has been made easier by what Juhlin calls the universal mindset of football player to be focused only on winning, has been a success for both the quarterback and the team.
Through the Predators' first five games, Juhlin has completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,383 yards and 27 touchdowns against only throwing two interceptions in Walker's intricate offense.
"My offense is not a simple offense for the quarterback to learn," Walker continued in the email. "It is designed to spread the ball to multiple athletes and pre-snap read the defense to put us in the optimal play. Phil athletically is ideal for this offense because of his ability to run and throw. Most importantly though Phil is smart and he can make good decisions under pressure."
Juhlin isn't sure what his football future will be. He says there may be a possibility for him to play for the Swedish National team, but nothing beyond rumors have been discussed to this point. He also said he’s unsure if he could return to the U.S. and play NCAA football, having been paid to play in Sweden. But for now, he’s just enjoying the opportunity at hand.
"I can take a one hour flight and I can be in Paris," he said. "The possibilities are endless."