West High School kickers Marc Scherer and Marc Saez needed a few days of practices to get used to American football.
It’s nothing like the football they play in Europe.
Scherer is from Homberg, a small town near Frankfurt, Germany. Saez is from Barcelona, Spain.
They’re foreign exchange students, both seniors, and will provide an instant boost to the Rebels’ soccer team next spring.
Their impact on the football field wasn’t so immediate, but by Week 3 last Friday night against Karns, Scherer was the starting kicker for field goals and PAT attempts, and Saez was handling the kickoff duties.
Both have learned a lot in a short time playing what they call, “American football.” Both kick left-footed.
Saez didn’t know any rules about football when he started practices at West.
After one of his first kickoffs, Saez took off his helmet and started trotting toward the sideline during the return, not knowing he had to stay on the field.
“You can’t do that,” West coach Lamar Brown told Saez. “You’ll get a penalty.”
“What is that?” Saez said.
“Uh, it’s like a yellow card,” Brown said.
Scherer’s learning curve hasn’t been as great. Unlike Saez, who has only watched one or two Super Bowls, Scherer is a fan of the NFL. He watches games on Sundays and Monday nights on the one or two select channels carrying games in Germany.
What’s his favorite NFL team?
“I think the people here don’t like it when I say Patriots, because of Tom Brady,” Scherer said. “Just because of Tom Brady and because they are really good and did well in the Super Bowl.”
Scherer saw his first action as a place-kicker in Friday night’s 42-14 win over Karns. He made all six of his PAT attempts and didn’t attempt a field goal.
It was a special night for the 6-foot-5, 207-pound Scherer.
“I like to watch football, and when I came over, I was a soccer player in Germany,” he said. “We play soccer like four hours a day. It’s our whole life, and I want to try another sport. When you can do another sport with your kicking, you can try it without learning completely new stuff, like a completely new sport. I wanted to try it, and it was great.”
Scherer already knew some American football rules when he joined the team July 31, four days before the arrival of Saez. (Therefore, Scherer is known by West’s coaches as “German Marc” and “Old Marc,” and Saez is “Spanish Marc” and “New Marc.”)
Saez landed five of his seven kickoffs into the end zone against Karns.
“They’re great kids,” said West assistant Rod Ellerbee, who coaches special teams. “Heck, Old Marc I understand (his English) really well. New Marc hardly says anything. I say kick it deep and that’s what I get from him.”
Scherer plays a high level of soccer in Germany. Although it’s called “university” soccer, most players get paid if they’re old enough. Not Scherer, who is 17.
His goal is to play college soccer in the United States.
“It’s more important to get a diploma than go to Germany and play professional soccer,” Scherer said. “Also for my dad (Wilfried). It’s good to play soccer but you need to be focused on school.”
Saez also plans to attend college and play soccer, either in the United States or Spain.
He knew nothing about American football before this summer when he joined West’s team, although he’d heard of the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.
“Spain is more famous for soccer than American football,” Saez said.
Saez was surprised with the pageantry of high school football on Friday night. He saw far more fans in the stands than at his soccer games in Spain.
“Yeah, it’s really exciting because there are a lot of people that are going to watch you or the team,” Saez said. “It’s different because in Spain, they don’t have a lot of people seeing you. It’s really cool.”
So are game days. They exceed what Saez is used to in Spain.
“We go, all the team, to eat together at the high school, and then we go on the bus together,” he said. “Normally, you do it at Spain but if you’re at a high level, not at a normal level.”
Both exchange students have moments of missing home and family, but the chance to experience life in America far outweighs any homesickness.
Scherer had no idea what to expect before he got to Knoxville and West High, other than what he’d seen on television and movies.
“The people are really nice, and I like it,” Scherer said. “It’s kind of (like) school in a movie, because before I didn’t know anything about school in America. I only saw the movies about it, and it’s like the same thing in the movies, and I love it.”
Saez is good with it, too.
“It’s like a new experience,” he said. “My dad always told me I have to go one year to study outside (Spain). It doesn’t matter where, but I have to go, and I chose America because, it’s like America. In Europe, people see America and say that it’s amazing. It’s more cooler than I imagined.”