Article updated: 7/11/2013 11:59 AM
In Brazil where soccer reigns supreme, a former Elk Grove High School starting quarterback hopes to make American football the next most popular sport.
Tom Kudyba, 28, a 2002 graduate of Elk Grove High School, will coach a team in Brazil’s first professional American Football League — Liga de Futbol Americano — beginning this summer.
The LFA has a three-year broadcast agreement with SPORTV, the premier sports channel in Brazil, and holds the rights to the Brazilian National Team, which will be competing in qualifying rounds for the 2015 International Federation of American Football World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden.
“Nothing will ever overtake soccer (in Brazil),” Kudyba said. “There’s a lot of people that believe that there’s a great opportunity for (football) to be the second biggest sport in Brazil.”
Kudyba said the league has been in existence for three years and finally is going professional. It will be run more like major league soccer, he added.
The league is led by a mix of Brazilian and American executives with experience in entrepreneurial ventures, sports marketing, American football in Brazil, and playing experience, according to its Facebook page.
The LFA’s inaugural season kicks off in September with six franchises in five cities — Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, Cuiaba, and Florianopolis. The teams will be made up of Brazilian players and 42 American players with experience playing in the NFL, Arena Football League, and college, Kudyba said.
“Each team gets to draft seven American players,” said Kudyba, who will help pick the talent and begin training this month. “All the games for the first season will be in Sao Paulo. The goal is to grow the sport so we can compete in the 2015 World Championships of football.”
Kudyba has signed a one-year contract to coach the team in Cuiaba, the largest city in the state of Mato Grosso, with a population of roughly one million in the metropolitan region. It’s also one of 12 host cites for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The Cuiaba stadium that will host the World Cup games also will be used to host LFA football games starting in 2014/2015, Kudyba said.
To become a head coach for a professional football league at his age is the opportunity of a lifetime, said Kudyba of Des Plaines.
“I’ve always dreamed of being a head football coach,” Kudyba said, adding that it didn’t matter that the job isn’t stateside. “It’s just important to get experience. It’s more commonplace (now) to see people go overseas to coach.”
Kudyba’s football credentials helped him score the job. He was a starting quarterback at Illinois Wesleyan University and played in the Indoor Football League with the Chicago Slaughter and Bloomington Extreme.
Kudyba won his first championship playing overseas in Finland in 2008. He has played four seasons for international teams in France, Finland and Brazil.
Kudyba was an offensive coordinator and quarterback for the Cuiaba Arsenal team, which won the 2010 National Championship in the CBFA, the administrator of Brazil’s largest amateur football league. Kudyba was named MVP of the bowl.
He has since coached football at Concordia University in River Forest and Harper College in Palatine.
Coaching Brazil’s professional league could be a steppingstone to achieving Kudyba’s loftier goals of someday coaching college football or in the NFL, or to become the head football coach at his Grenadier alma mater.
“My dream is to coach NFL, the Chicago Bears,” he said. “Ultimately, I would love to be the head coach at Elk Grove High School. I would like to give back to my community.”