Football talent has a way of hurdling language barriers while ignoring other potential obstacles such as changes in time zone or unfamiliar game-day surroundings.
With every completed pass, Jonny West raises his profile ever so slightly in a land far, far away.
The record-breaking former Franklin College quarterback currently plays professionally for the Turku Trojans, one of Finland’s oldest and most successful teams.
Highlights of Turku’s games won’t be piped into American living rooms anytime soon. Nonetheless, West is having the time of his young life leading the Trojans to a 4-1 start.
“I have had a tremendous experience here in Finland. It’s been even better than what I expected. The guys on the team have really embraced me as one their own,” said West, a 2014 Franklin graduate, who owns program marks in career passing yards (10,653), touchdowns (105), completions (894) and more.
“From a football standpoint, we’re off to a great start and fighting for the top spot in the playoffs. The biggest obstacle so far has been just getting adjusted to a new coaching staff and new teammates. It makes me really appreciate what I had at Franklin.”
What West had was an offensive system tailor-made to showcase his talents.
The Grizzlies’ versatile, pass-oriented attack proved the ideal foundation to what West is accomplishing now. In his five games with Turku, he completed 62 of 116 pass attempts (.534) for 845 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Among the highlights are two TD passes in a 27-14 victory against Vantaa Taft and three in a 58-19 romp against the Helsinki 69ers in July.
BY THE NUMBERS
Jonny West’s statistics with the Turku Trojans in Finland:
28-12 win against Porvoo Butchers (11 of 23, 185 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
27-14 win against Vantaa Taft (18 of 28, 160 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions)
58-19 win against Helsinki 69ers (12 of 19, 208 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception)
48-41 loss to Helsinki Roosters (19 of 43, 229 yards, 4 touchdowns, 2 interceptions)
90-20 win against Helsinki Wolverines (2 of 3, 63 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception)
“Jonny is well-prepared to help his Finland coaches get the ball in the end zone,” Franklin College football coach Mike Leonard said. “We gave him so much freedom at Franklin that I’m positive his creativity over there will again produce results.”
Turku is on the southwest coast of Finland. With a population of 182,281, it’s the country’s sixth-largest municipality.
The city’s location makes it less of a grind for West to occasionally visit with best friend and former Franklin College receiver Kyle Linville. Turku is roughly a three-hour flight from Schwabisch, Germany, where Linville plays for the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns of the German Football League.
Already the two have met on each other’s new home soil, with Linville visiting West in Turku just last weekend.
Linville, who owns Grizzlies career records in receptions (308), yards (4,691) and TD catches (53), suffered a season-ending ACL injury in the Unicorns’ season-opener. The goal is for the two of them to be teammates in the future whether it’s abroad or closer to home.
“Obviously if an opportunity like (NFL or CFL) came to fruition, I would jump on it. However, I don’t see that happening, so I do plan on possibly continuing my career overseas,” West said. “Once Kyle gets healthy, we are going to begin looking for opportunities to play together next season.”
In the meantime, the quarterback who led the Grizzlies to 27 wins and three Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference championships remains focused on keeping Turku on top of the American Football Association’s Maple League standings.
That process began May 15 when West arrived in Turku. At the time, three of the Trojans’ receivers were competing in the European Championships in Austria and unavailable for West to build on-field chemistry with.
According to Turku head coach Mikko Virolainen, this is why West’s primary target initially was receiver Rodney Brown Jr., who, interestingly, hails from HCAC rival Bluffton (Ohio) University.
“Game after game (West) has found the other guys better. This weekend we are playing against the Seinäjoki Crocodiles, who are 5-0. Jonny has to be sharp in that game, and I believe he will step up and put up great numbers,” Virolainen said.
“Jonny is a great QB with great vision, and he is also very coachable. Hopefully, he leads us to Maple League Championship game that will be played in Helsinki on September 13.”
West played before much larger crowds in college and even Speedway High School than he does currently. Turku’s five outings have attracted an average of 443 spectators, the low tally being the 102 that showed up for a 90-20 pasting of the Helsinki Wolverines on Sunday.
But it’s football. West is a football player.
Where West now fastens his chinstrap is seven hours ahead of the Franklin College campus, where he once flourished for an offense capable of Playstation-type numbers.
He hasn’t forgotten.
“Playing at Franklin College was extremely beneficial both on and off the field. That includes all that athletics taught me at FC but also what I learned in the classroom,” West said. “The coaching staff along with the professors helped me become a better person along with the football side of things, which obviously helped me get this great opportunity.”