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UWO football alumnus helping bring football, faith to Europe

Zach Harrod graduated from UW Oshkosh in 2003. Since then, he's been growing American football in the Czech Republic.
Posted at 9:09 PM, Jul 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-26 23:25:11-04

PRAGUE (NBC 26) — 18 years ago Zach Harrod boarded a flight to Prague - just as he'd done a couple times as a student at UW Oshkosh.

Except this time, the former Titans defensive back was leaving for good.

"Franz Kafka, a famous Czech author, once said 'Prague is like a little mother. Once she gets her hooks into you she never lets you go,'" he smiled. "And that's very much the case."

Over that time, he's seen the game of American football grow in a country dominated by ice hockey and soccer.

He must be doing something right. Earlier in July, Harrod led the Prague Lions to their second Czech League of American Football championship in the last four years.

"We're seeing the development of the game happen enough," he said. "We're starting to get more and more good athletes in."

Athleticism is one thing, but overseas, Europeans don't live and breathe football like so many in the United States do. Because of that, Harrod believes what's above the neck is what matters most - helping his players to better understand the game.

"I have to coach every one of our players to be a coach," he said. "Living in Europe and coaching football in Europe that's one of the necessities if we want to replicate ourselves and we want to get better."

He compared it to Division III football, and cited legendary UWO coach Pat Cerroni as his biggest influence.

"I can honestly say I learned a ton of that from my dad (who was a high school football coach at Badger High School in Lake Geneva), but maybe even more-so from Coach C because he was coaching us to be coaches," Harrod said.

"Coach C won a lot of games when it was all said and done and did things that no coach really did at Oshkosh and I'm proud to say that I'm at the beginning of it," Harrod added. "But I think his greatest legacy might not be all those wins but might be the impact that he had on the Oshkosh community through the Titans football program."

That's something Harrod finds inspirational. After all, it wasn't football that brought him to Prague in the first place; it was his faith.

Harrod is also a Christian missionary in a country that is nearly 80 percent non-religious.

Teaching football and spreading his faith are both big challenges. But Harrod deemed one significantly tougher than the other.

"Faith for sure," he said. "Faith is by far the biggest challenge of life here (in Prague).

"I'll be around these people who do not think at all like us, but I want them to say at the end of the day, 'I might not believe like Zach or ever believe like Zach and Míša (his wife) but I'm really glad that Zach and Míša and their family are here because our team, our community, this country is better for having them here," he said.

Learn more about Harrod at his website.

Photos in the attached story are credited to Jakub Pláteník of JPlatno Photo.

Video in the attached story are credited to the Czech Association of American Football, the parent of the Czech League of American Football. Visit their YouTube Channel here.