It’s no croc! A former Ballenas Whalers football player has found a home with the Crocodiles in Finland.
Justin Andrushko recently signed with the Seinäjoki Crocodiles of the Maple League, the highest American football league in Finland, as the team’s new running back.
The 29-year-old from Parksville, who graduated from Ballenas in 2006, was recruited through a website called europlayers.com.
“They contacted me mid-season because they had an injury with one of their running backs.” Andrushko told The NEWS. “So they reached out and offered me a contract.”
Andrushko, who played college football at the University of Waterloo and University of British Columbia, felt it was too good an opportunity to pass up after reading the contract.
“So I signed and packed my bags. They flew me out about a week or two later,” said Andrushko.
“Typical contracts over here are just season-long and you need to renew each year,” he said. Andrushko is one of the 11 players recruited from different parts of the world by the Division One team.
“It honestly feels great to be over here,” he said. “It is amazing meeting people from all over the world and playing a game I love. Finland is also pretty nice and the people are great.”
The league plays American football rules. Although Andrushko has had experience playing this type of football, it’s been a while.
“I played American ball in high school but after that, university football, it was Canadian rules so it was an adjustment to get back into the American game a little bit,” said Andrushko.
The range in talent of the players in the league is huge, said Andrushko, which he never underestimates.
“You really need to do your homework before a game because depending on who you end up going up against in one-on-one situations, you can either have your hands full or it can be relatively easy,” said Andrushko. “For example, you can go up against a team that has an ex-NFL or ex-NCAA D1 player on one side of the field, but on the other side they might have someone that is more of a Canadian junior football level. So the range in talent is substantial and you need to be prepared to handle either of them.”
There are seven teams in the Maple League — Helsinki Roosters, Seinäjoki Crocodiles, Turku Trojans, Wasa Royals, Tampere Saints, Porvoo Butchers and the riser from first division, the Hämeenlinna Huskies.
Andrushko is one of the top football players to come out of the Ballenas program. He still holds the school record for most rushing touchdowns in a season at 31, and most rushing yards for a season at 2,384. Going into the CFL’s 2010 prospect draft he was ranked the 10th best running back in the draft by TSN.