Less than a month after playing in a championship game in Spain, Bahamian professional American football player Mavin Saunders will be making his debut in the Vaahteraliiga (Maple League) for the Helsinki Wolverines on Saturday.
The Wolverines are set to play the Porvoo Butchers at Central Field in Porvoo, Finland. That game is set to kick off at 8 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) in The Bahamas and be live streamed at https://afi.tv/.
“I am very excited to get back into game action. We practice three times per week and it is going good really. The chemistry with the quarterback is still a work in progress but is getting better every practice,” Saunders said.
Saunders will be used as a combo playmaker – a tight end and a wide receiver by Head Coach Michael Mattingly. He said he will look to work closely with Finnish quarterback Rasmus Laalo as the season goes on, and they will look create chemistry that will have defenses work harder.
“My goal for the season in Finland is to continue to spread my knowledge to the players and continue doing my part in helping the team win. Whether that’s catching touchdowns or attracting double teams, whatever it takes for us to come out on top at the end as champions, I will do” Saunders stated.
The Maple League is the highest level of American football played in Finland. The league features six teams. The Wolverines lost in the championship game (Maple Bowl) to the Kuopio Steelers, 21-0, last year. It was one of the few leagues in the world to continue play in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
Bimini native Saunders spent a few months helping Las Rozas Black Demons advance to the championship game in the Liga Nacional de Fútbol Americano (LNFA) in Spain. In the championship game, the defending champions Badalona Dracs won, 31-21. Although they came up short, the playmaker said it was a successful season for him.
“The Spain season was a success for me and the program for making the deep playoff run. Hopefully, we get to run it back in the future to redeem the tough loss in the championship game,” Saunders said.
He has been in Helsinki, Finland for the past three weeks and luckily for him, he doesn’t have to learn a new language. Though, English is not the native tongue in Finland, Saunders said the locals speak it quite fluently, so there is no language barrier.
“The experience has been great thus far. It is a beautiful country and I’m near water so it feels a little like home. The weather is nice for now. It sounds like I’ll only have to experience the extreme cold a few days in September,” Saunders said.
The Bahamian spent 2018 playing for the Kansas Jayhawks before declaring for the 2019 National Football League (NFL) Draft, but wasn’t drafted. His only touchdown that season came against the West Virginia Mountaineers back on October 6, catching an 18-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Peyton Bender at the end of the first quarter in that game.
For the season, Saunders had four receptions for 32 yards and a touchdown. His longest reception was that touchdown grab against the Mountaineers, 18 yards.
Before suiting up for the Jayhawks, Saunders played for the Florida State University (FSU) Seminoles, from 2014-2017. As a Seminoles player, he had a career day in 2016 against the North Carolina Tar Heels, finishing with three catches for 74 yards, including a 33-yard reception.
Saunders played high school football and basketball for Kincaid School in Houston, Texas, USA. He was a four-star football recruit coming out of high school.