Ron Smeltzer becomes third former CFL head coach to join ELF’s Barcelona Dragons

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant /

If you long for the CFL of the ’80s and ’90s, it’s time to book your ticket to Spain.

The Barcelona Dragons of the European League of Football announced on Saturday the hiring of former Ottawa Rough Riders head coach Ron Smeltzer as their offensive line coach, making him the third former CFL head coach added to the team’s coaching staff.

Long-time CFL head coach and general manager Adam Rita was named the Dragon’s first head coach in February, while the ‘Throwin’ Samoan’ Joe Paopao signed on as quarterbacks coach in late March.

The Dragons, who changed their name from the Gladiators last month following an agreement with the NFL for NFL Europe trademarks, are one of eight teams in the newly launched ELF. Others include the Wroclaw Panthers of Poland, Berlin Thunder, Cologne Centurions, Frankfurt Galaxy, Leipzig Kings, Stuttgart Scorpions and Hamburg Sea Devils.

Smeltzer broke into the CFL in 1984 as offensive line coach for the B.C. Lions before jumping to Calgary in 1986 to serve as offensive coordinator. He returned to the Lions from 1988 to 1989 and was hired as offensive line coach in 1991.

In 1992, Smeltzer joined the now defunct Ottawa Rough Riders as their seventh head coach in seven years. Smeltzer went 9-9 his first season — the first time in a decade that the Riders didn’t post a losing record — but was fired after going 4-14 in year two.

His final CFL stop was as offensive coordinator of the expansion Las Vegas Posse in 1994, before becoming a well-respected high school coach in Nevada. The 79-year-old has been retired since 2007 but will now travel to the Iberian Peninsula to join his former colleagues.

The brainchild of former NFL Europe coach turned German NFL broadcaster Patrick Esume, the European League of Football is scheduled to start its debut season on June 20. It has marketed itself as the first professional style American football on the continent since the fall of NFL Europe, from which many of its teams derive their names.

Along with Rita and Paopao, the league’s coaches include former NFL special teams coordinator Ted Daisher, and several prominent European NFL alumni have signed on board, including the NFL’s all-time German sack leader Kasim Edebali, International Player Pathway products Anthony Dable, Tigie Sankoh and Christopher Ezeala, as well as CFL Global prospect Anthony Mahoungou.

The league recently signed a broadcast deal with major German NFL broadcaster ranSport. The latest information on the ELF can be found at American Football International.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.