Making Football History in China


A Clintonville man returns home after making history in China.

Max Westphal just competed in that country’s first ever professional football league.

The experience added up to more than Westphal ever imagined.

After graduating from St. Norbert College three years ago, Max Westphal continued his football career in various arena leagues around the country, including some time with the Green Bay Blizzard.

Last May, he learned about an opportunity in China and submitted some film.

“I got an email from one of the league’s head coaches, J.W. Kenton, who ended up being the Shenzhen Najas head coach and he gave me a call,” recalls Westphal.

Because the pay was much higher than arena league football in this country, and half of the six team’s rosters would consist of Chinese players, Westphal considered himself a longshot.

But when the draft rolled around in August, he received a call.

“The fact that I was probably one of about 8-10 linemen taken, very thankful, very blessed,” says Westphal.

Heading to China, Westphal admits he was nervous about what to expect in the country and the competition.

“In this league you see who got picked up, you start researching them, looking for what their background is and you see, oh this guy got released by the Ravens, this guy got picked up by the Colts, this guy is fresh out of the Eagles camp,” says Westphal.

As the season wore on, Westphal says the Chinese fans fell in love with the game of football.

“They really started getting it, really started enjoying it and loving it and you could see that as the further we went the more and more our stadiums filled up,” recalls Westphal.

The Shenzhen Najas finished their inaugural season at 3-3, and Westphal earned All-Pro honors in the Chinese Arena Football League.

Westphal is already invited to play next season in China.

In the meantime, he continues working out and pursuing his dream of playing in the Canadian Football League or the NFL.