Global trailblazer Thiadric Hansen signs with ELF’s Cologne Centurions, will return to CFL when training camp announced

Photo courtesy: CFL

When the European League of Football officially launches it’s inaugural season on June 19th, a Grey Cup winner will be among the players taking the field.

The Cologne Centurions announced earlier this week that German defensive lineman Thiadric Hansen had signed a contract with the club. The move raised eyebrows given that Hansen had previously signed a contract extension with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers through the 2021 season in January.

Hansen’s contract with the Bombers remains in effect but the team is allowing him to play in the ELF until CFL training camps begin, at which point he will return to Winnipeg.

Thiadric will be playing for us with an opt-out clause for the CFL in his contract. When the Winnipeg Blue Bombers need him to report to camp he will have to leave us, but until then he can help the Centurions win,” Cologne general manager David Drane said. “He is one of Europe’s top players and we are very pleased to have him on board.”

At the time of publication, the Bombers did not have an official comment on their contractual arrangement with Hansen.

The move is unusual in the lead up to a CFL season, but not entirely unprecedented. Earlier this offseason, former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant was signed by the Massachusetts Pirates of the Indoor Football League despite being under contract with the Toronto Argonauts.

Whenever clarity on the 2021 season is achieved, Hansen’s focus will return to the Bombers and he will attempt to build on a successful first season in the CFL in 2019. He was drafted second overall by the Bombers in the league’s inaugural European Draft and became the face of the CFL’s global initiative, finishing the regular season with five tackles, one quarterback sack and two forced fumbles.

The six-foot-two, 243-pound defensive end’s role increased as the season progressed and he contributed with two memorable plays in the 2019 Grey Cup playoff run. The first being a critical tackle on one of the two goal-line stands in the Western Final win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders and then a jarring hit on a kickoff return in the Grey Cup that levelled two Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Looking to keep honing his skills, Hansen was released from his contract with the Bombers last August after the cancellation of the CFL’s 2020 season.

He then signed with the Wroclaw Panthers of Poland’s Liga Futbou Amerykanskiego and helped his squad capture a title with a victory over the Bialystok Lowlanders in the final. For his efforts Hansen was a unanimous selection to the American Football International’s All-Pandemic Team.

Hansen’s dominance helped the Panthers become one of two non-German teams to join the fledgling eight team European League of Football, marketed as the first professional style American football on the continent since the fall of NFL Europe. Rather than stay in Poland, Hansen has chosen to return to his home country where he starred for the Potsdam Royals and Kiel Baltic Hurricanes prior to the CFL.

Though he’s likely to only suit up for a handful of games should the CFL meet its August 5 start date for a 14-game season, Hansen will share the field for the Centurions with fullback/linebacker Chris Ezeala, former Baltimore Raven and the 5th overall pick of the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 2021 CFL Global Draft. Ezeala is not yet under CFL contract.

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.