Troy Shoate III plays professional football. But not in the United States, in Finland! After graduating from Divison II Southwestern Oklahoma University in 2014, the 5’9″, 180 pounder joined the Kouvola Indians in the Vaahteraliiga league. In this interview, we talk about his transition to playing football in Finland, how it differs from football in the United States, and his hopes for the future.
By: Peter Elliott – NFL, MLB, and Recruiting writer – @PelliottSports
Peter Elliott: How is playing in Finland different from playing in the U.S?
Troy Shoate III: Overall, it’s pretty much the same. You have the same rules as College Football. Sometimes you play at soccer fields, and sometimes the announcer didn’t speak English, and they spoke Finnish, the native language. I did learn a little Finnish while I was over there as well. You could only have one American on the field at a time though. In Finland, they don’t have high school football. The switch was different. They just have that city’s team split into different age groups. The youngest team is U12, which is 11 and 12-year-olds. And then U15, U17, U19 and then the professional league. They also have a women’s league as well. It was fun to watch, and some women were actually pretty good.
PE: What was the atmosphere like? How were the fans?
TS: The atmosphere was different. So the attendence were low at times. American Football isn’t the man sport over there like it is here in the U.S. They are really big on Hockey. But American Football is growing over there rapidly.
PE: How many times a month would you fly from Finland back to the U.S.?
TS: None. I was over there from May to August.
PE: Interesting. So did you live in a hotel for a while? What is the culture like over there?
TS: Yeah, I live in a two bedroom apartment. I had a roommate from England, but he was Colombian.
PE: It was a really active culture. They loved to be out doing things. Like going to their lake house to fish, Barbecue, and play card games. They also loved to go to the Sauna. There was literally a Sauna in every house, apartment building, hotel, everywhere haha. There were a lot of different festivals over the summer. They even have a holiday called mid-summer Holliday. It’s the second weekend in June, and the sun doesn’t go down that day. Literally the sun stays up all night and they just drink and have little parties and go to lake houses. Also, all summer long the sun sets at about one-something in the morning and rises at two AM. That took a long time to adjust too. We would go out like to a bar that night and it closed at 3 AM and the sun would be up like it was 8 AM. Bright and sunny.
PE: I kinda want to go to Finland now!
TS: Haha. If you do, go to Helsinki. It’s beautiful!
PE: How did Southwestern Oklahoma State change your football career?
TS: Well, when I first got there, I had to sit out a year because of NCAA rules. So I had to workout by myself a lot and stay motivated. There was still a lot of times I worked out with people that were already on the team. One of my friends named Adrian Miles came that same year so we worked out a lot together. I would say the year off made me fall in love with football all over again. Because I had to find motivation more than I ever have before, because there wasn’t any coach making me workout. You had to do it all on your own. We had a gym called S.W.O.L. that wasn’t connected with SWOSU. But we all went there and worked out. I became really close with a lot of my future teammates there. It was a gym that had cross fit, MLA, and a lot of other great workouts. It was run by Josh Musick, and he was really cool. He was a super strong guy and he was really down to earth and just keep it real with you. He knows a lot about lifting and preparing your body to train right. I definitely grew a lot at that place.
PE: What is one quality you possess as an athlete that you’d like people to know you have?
TS: Relentless! I never want to give up on something I start. And I want to be the best at whatever it is I’m doing. Even if the odds are stacked against me and someone is doubting me, I want to go all out and prove them I am good enough. I was told a quote by someone, “You’re not a bit better than anyone else, but you’re just as good.” I feel like that quote is very true. It humbles you, but at the same time it says you have the talent to do everything everyone else is.
PE: What player do you mold your game after/look up to?
TS: It’s kind of hard to just say one player. I look up to Richard Sherman. He is very intelligent on and off the field. He has a cocky side, but it’s after he has backed it up. His press bail technique is one of the best, and how he uses the leverage to see the quarterback and see the route combinations and quickly figure out what route the opposing WR will run is amazing. Despite what everyone says about him, I still ride with him. I also look up to my old teammate from High School, Aaron Colvin. His love for the game is crazy, and how much enthusiasm he brought to the field when he plays was crazy. He lays it all on the field. I rarely saw him miss a tackle. I also look up to Joe Haden, Chris Harris, and Brent Grimes because they are all smaller corners like myself. Brent Grimes has a really cool story that he went to a Division II college and got picked up as a free agent, and then went and play the NFL in Europe when they had that going on. So I see how they handle bigger wide receivers. And of course, I also like Darrelle Revis.
PE: You play both WR and Corner, right?
TS: Really just corner. I played wide receiver until our other American “import” was brought over.
PE: Does knowing the wide receiver position help you?
TS: Yes, it does help in a way, because you learn some of the route concepts. For instance, if it is a doubles formation, if the outside WR does a 5 yard stop, there’s a 9/10 chance the slot is doing a corner route right behind you. There are other scenarios that are just like that. You also learn how receivers will stack you so you won’t have any inside leverage and it gives them a way to go.
PE: Where do you see yourself in a few years?
TS: Well, this year I signed with the Logan City Wolverines in Australia in the new NGL League which is highly competitive. Each team will be allowed 35 international players, so hopefully that league can get me more exposure that will hopefully get me a shot at the NFL. I see my self-starting my career and hopefully having a special woman in my life by then to start my family as well. And I could coach on the side to teach others the knowledge I know about the game.
PE: Who is your favorite soccer team?
TS: Manchester United. I’m pretty good at FIFA, too.