Prior to donning the purple-and-orange of the German Football League’s Frankfurt Universe, it had been a while since Quarderman Sloan had played the game he’s loved since childhood.
As a matter of fact, before Sloan suited up on July 10 against the Marburg Mercenaries, it had been about 18 months since he’d been on the field. On Nov. 9, 2019, as a running back at Winston-Salem State, he rushed 12 times for 49 yards in a 31-17 loss against Fayetteville State. Winston-Salem State did not play in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns.
“It was the first time I’d played since college — it was a long time,” said the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Sloan, a former standout at Charles Drew High School who as a senior rushed for 2,265 yards and 28 touchdowns. “Between that time I was working out, playing in seven-on-seven tournaments.
“It felt good to get back, but it also felt kind of weird. When I got there for practice and put on my pads and stuff, I thought, ‘I haven’t worn this stuff in a minute.’ And the first thing I noticed is you really sweat when you’ve got on those pads and the helmet. I haven’t sweated like that in a long time, but it felt pretty good.”
Given that he’d only recently joined the team, Sloan only ran a few plays in his GFL debut and was looking forward to his second game, scheduled for July 24 against Allgäu Comets, but the game was cancelled after a case of COVID was detected on the Universe.
When asked how he wound up playing football in Germany, Sloan said that Winston-Salem State did not host an NFL Pro Day, so he attended what he terms “a Euro-slash-NFL camp” in Virginia and a similar tryout camp in Atlanta. He clearly turned some heads and had offers from several teams.
“Frankfurt was the last team to offer me,” said Sloan, who before signing with Winston-Salem State played at Murray State and Northwest Mississippi Community College. “I was working out in the gym and they called me and said they wanted me, but the only downside was I had to be there in two or three days. So I went straight home and started to try to pack and get my flight together. It was a rush, so I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it.”
Before signing with the Universe, Sloan received some vital intelligence about the team from an unimpeachable source — his brother, quarterback Joseph Newman, who after stellar stints at Drew and Wofford College, has been playing since May in Germany with the Assindia Cardinals.
“My brother is already here,” Sloan said of Newman. “He’s been here since May and he was telling me how it is. He was giving me some information…He said Frankfurt had a good program, but they may be in for a down year because some of their players went into another league. It made sense — new coaching staff and new players — that they might be in a rebuilding mode.”
Sloan said the biggest on-field difference for him is, not surprisingly, the language barrier. He added that he’s seen plenty of players who have the size to play in America.
“The difference is communication,” he said. “Not everybody understands the English part. Being the coach has to be hard because the stuff he says has to be translated in both languages. But he’s good at getting the team to understand football lingo and basic football knowledge. But at the end of the day, it’s still football — the offense wants to move the ball and the defense wants to stop the offense.
“Size-wise, the players can match up with U.S. players — some of them are really big. And a lot of guys I’ve seen can really play. Some of them, this is their first time playing or they haven’t been playing very long and I thought they were veterans.”
Sloan also has a number of American teammates, including Glen Cuiellette (who played at Tulane) who have been helpful in his first couple of weeks in a new country. He added that GFL rules direct that only two Americans can line up for their team on any given play.
Although he’s back on the gridiron — albeit far, far away from where he started — Sloan is adamant that one day he’ll get his shot at playing on Sundays.
“The NFL has always been the goal,” he said. “But everybody has a different route there. And I’m taking a different route. I’m glad to be able to get back on the field and build on what I’ve already started.”