Adrià Botella Moreno (Pro American Football Player)- My Greatest Moment in Sport

At Tales From Sport, we believe in giving athletes the platform to tell their stories first-hand. Of course, fans of any sports will always have their own opinion on what a players greatest moment was, but does that player feel the same? Or is there another, more personal moment that stands above all others? 

In this series, we will be asking professional athletes from various sports one simple question, What do you consider the greatest moment of your career?  

In the twelfth edition of this series, Spanish Tight End Adrià Botella Moreno joins us to share his answer. 

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‘My Greatest Moment in Sport’ by Adrià Botella Moreno

The greatest moment of my career is, without a doubt, the Championship game of the European League of Football. Even though we didn’t obtain the result we sought as a team, that moment transcended beyond the game itself for personal motives.

2021 was a very challenging year for me. In fact, I almost had to cancel my plans to come to Hamburg and play in the ELF. A couple of weeks prior to my departure to Germany, my dad was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive cancer that had already metastasised in several vital organs.

At that point, I saw myself having to choose between the greatest opportunity of my professional career and spending what could be his last moments with my dad. Yet, when I was about to call it quits, he convinced me to take the opportunity, and if things got worse, then we would reconsider the possibility of returning home.

I spent the first weeks of the ELF travelling back and forth between Hamburg and France (where my parents live), finding a fair compromise between my football duties and my family’s necessities. And, it did work out for a little bit.

However, as was expected since the beginning, things got significantly worse to the point where my dad had to undergo a life or death procedure due to a heart infection.

As I travelled back to France to be with him, I thought my time with the Sea Devils had come to an end. But to my surprise, a few days after the operation, he forced me to leave. He told me that I had an unfinished business and that he would be okay (a fact hard to believe in his physical state at the time). However, after a long back and forth, I decided to give in to his request, and I returned to Hamburg.

Somehow, someway, after being hospitalised for over a month and a half, he started feeling significantly better. To the point that after winning our playoff game against Wroclaw, he announced me that they [my parents] would travel to Dusseldorf to attend the Championship game.

My dad was the reason I started playing football. He played in Spain before me, and from a very young age, he introduced me to the sport. All throughout my career, both my parents have been my biggest supporter. They did everything they could to send me to college in the US, they encouraged me to keep playing in Europe when I had to opportunity to go Pro, and they never missed a game of my whole career (in-person or streamed).

Having my parents there in the Championship game meant the world to me, especially after how tumultuous the season had been. This has been the most important game of my career so far: the biggest crowd, the biggest stage. I was named a captain for the game and was the #1 receiver of the team going into the Championship.

Even if we couldn’t get the win after all, I’m happy with my performance, I left everything on the field (literally, I sprained my knee in the first quarter and I broke a rib in the third), and I will always cherish the fact that I could share such a significant moment of my career with my dad and my mom.

Because this year made me realise that I love football, but what I love above everything is the moments it creates and the people I share them with.

Note:

Since Adrià wrote this for us, his father sadly passed away. All of us at TalesFromSport.com send our condolences and love to Adrià and his entire family.

Adrià thought it would be a good idea if we were to link a few charities that help those who also suffer from melanomas or lung cancer. If you have the money to spare and are willing to, it would mean the world to us if you could donate to one of these:

https://www.curemelanoma.org
https://www.skincancer.org
https://www.lungevity.org
https://go2foundation.org

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Adrià Botella Moreno Biography:

Unlike most European American football players, Botella developed his love for the game at a very young age. Since his father also played the sport, a young Adrià was introduced to the game early in his life. The Tight End explained to the Hamburger MorGenPost, “When I was three years old, I had my first ball in my hand. I fell in love with this sport right away.” The future Vienna Vikings star was born in the capital city of Catalonia, Barcelona, located in northeastern Spain, but he also spent a period of his childhood living in France. Botella began his American football journey at 15-years-old, playing the game for the Barcelona Búfals and the Badalona Dracs at a junior level while attending Escola Pia de Nostra Senyora High School. He was used as a utility player during this period, lining up at Wide Receiver, Free Safety, Kick/Punt Returner and Outside Linebacker.

In addition to football, The young Catalonian pursued another passion during his school tenure, art. The Escola Pia de Nostra Senyora’s renowned art program was crucial in Botella’s decision to attend the school. It was there where his strong affection for art was nurtured, giving him the tools to pursue it at a college level. As a result, he attended the University of Sioux Falls, where he graduated with a Bachelor in Arts with a double major in Media studies and Art /Graphic Design and a minor in Marketing. To this day, Botella continues to express his passion for art by working as a freelance Graphic Designer and a Photographer under the banner ‘Speak With Caution’. 

In 2011, Botella joined his first senior American football team, L’Hospitalet Pioners of the Liga Nacional de Fútbol Americano (LNFA), after leaving the Badalona Dracs Junior team. Under the guidance of the Head coach Teo Polanco, a legend in the Spanish game, The Pioners won both the LNFA title and the Copa de España de Fútbol Americano in 2011. 2012 and 2013. The team also reached the last-ever final of the European Federation of American football (EFAF) Cup in 2013 but ultimately fell to the Thonon Black Panthers. Botella also claimed an individual accolade during his time in the Spanish top-flight, winning the 2013 Best Tight End in the LNFA. He was also named to the 2013 World Team for the International Bowl, one year after being named in the 2012 Development World Team, playing as a Wide Receiver. He was also notably the only Spanish player selected in 2013. 

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Credit: Lola Morales

In 2014, Botella left the L’Hospitalet Pioners to attend the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota, USA, after receiving a scholarship. However, obtaining this scholarship was far from straightforward.  

Initially, the Spaniard planned on attending McGill University in Montreal, Canada, after impressing the coaches at a 5-day camp the University arranged in Southern France. However, before joining, McGill cut ties with many of their Football team’s staff members following a turbulent season. Botella’s contact person was among those let go by the University, which led to the offer falling through. Undeterred by this, the Barcelona-native compiled a makeshift film tape and emailed a large number of FBS and FCS schools in hopes to receive an offer. The University of Akron and Rutgers University expressed interest, but only as a walk-on. Upon learning how much it would cost for an international student to attend these schools without a scholarship, Botella looked for alternative methods. 

After learning more about the American College Football system from the US imports at L’Hospitalet Pioners, Botella was convinced to try and take the JUCO route in order to get the attention of a bigger program and to earn the college credits he lacked in certain areas due to the differences between the schooling systems in the US and Europe. However, after contacting and committing to an unnamed JUCO college, the Pioners star received a letter from the NCAA stating that he only had one of his five years of eligibility as a student-athlete remaining because he played semi-pro football in Europe. Since only playing JUCO football for one year was not an appealing offer to him, Botella’s plans had to change again. 

Since playing one more season in Europe would count as his final year of eligibility under the NCAA’s rules, Botella could not sign on for another season with L’Hospitalet Pioners, leaving him without a team and without a college that was not JUCO. Two years had passed since his initial plan of attending McGill University fell through, but the Catalonian refused to give up. Instead, he shifted his mindset to getting a good four-year education in the States, maximising his one-year eligibility as much as he could, and receiving some help with funding it. This led Botella to look into NCAA Division II schools and eventually contact the University of Sioux Falls. 

Since Botella fit the University of Sioux Falls Offensive Coordinator’s criteria, they were interested in bringing him in on a scholarship. Of course, the plans had to change once again, but this time in a positive way. The University managed to get their new Spanish star two years of eligibility back, meaning he could now play three years of College Football instead of one. So, in August 2014, Botella packed his possessions and made the flight from Barcelona to South Dakota. 

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Credit: University of Sioux Falls

Botella was a member of the Sioux Falls Cougars for four years, playing NCAA Division II Football in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC). However, he was redshirted as a freshman. He made his first appearance for the side in 2015 and was named in the Academic All-Conference team at the end of the season. The Cougars captured the 2016 NSIC Championship after a perfect 10-0 record, with Botella appearing in their team’s 41-30 victory against Winona State.

For the first two non-redshirted seasons of his time in South Dakota, the Barcelona-native was officially listed as an offensive player, shifting positions from Wide Receiver to Tight End during his Junior year. However, the versatile player was listed and deployed as a Defensive End during his senior year, despite never playing there before. Botella thrived in his new position, finishing the season with ten tackles in nine games, five solo stops, two tackles-for-losses and a sack. He also became the team’s Special Teams ace, remarkably blocking two Field Goal attempts in a single year. For his efforts during the 2017 campaign, the media studies/graphic design major was named to the all-NSIC third-team, while also being named on the academic all-conference team for the second time. Unfortunately, disaster struck in Botella’s final collegiate game. The Catalonian suffered a severe knee injury, forcing him to take a 14-month hiatus away from the sport. 

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Credit: 1st Down Photo

After returning to Europe and recovering from his lengthy layoff, Botella decided to continue his Football career, signing with the German Football League team Allgäu Comets on 1st March 2019. During his sole season in Kempten, the Spaniard lined up as a Tight End, Halfback and slot receiver. He quickly established himself as the Comets’ primary receiving target. In fact, he led the team in all receiving stats, catching 30 passes for 436 yards in 11 games, averaging 14.5 yards per catch and 39.6 yards per game while also registering two touchdowns. Interestingly, Botella even managed to record a successful passing attempt with the Barvarian team. This occurred in the season’s final game against the eventual 2019 German Bowl finalists Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns.

Unfortunately, Allgäu finished the regular season with a 5-9 record, finishing 6th in the GFL North, one win outside of a playoff spot. However, Botella’s standout performances throughout the 2019 campaign caught the eye of many teams across Europe. 

In March 2020, Botella swapped the GLF South for the GFL North, joining the 2019 playoff semi-finalists Dresden Monarchs. After assembling an extremely talented squad, the East German-based team was one of the pre-season favourites for the 2020 GFL season. However, they never got the chance to play a single snap. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing lockdowns worldwide before the campaign got underway, the GFL had no choice but to delay, then eventually cancel that year’s season. 

Due to the GFL cancellation, Botella left the Monarchs before ever suiting up for them. However, despite the global pandemic, The University of Sioux Falls alumni was determined to play in 2020. This desire eventually led him to Denmark, one of the few countries yet to cancel their league, where the Tight End/Wide Receiver signed for the 2019 Danish National Ligaen playoff semi-finalists, Søllerød Gold Diggers, in July 2020. After starting the season with a 3-1 record, which included two 50+ point blowout victories, Botella’s time in Rudersdal was once again frustratingly cut short. Despite the Danish National Ligaen attempts to continue their campaign as scheduled through the pandemic, they ultimately, and somewhat inevitably, had to accept defeat and cancel the 2020 season in September due to health concerns and the related measures set in place. In the four games he played for the Gold Diggers, Botella managed 15 catches for 200 yards. He also led the team in receiving touchdowns, scoring five. 

Still undeterred and focused on continuing his Football journey, Botella signed for his third team of 2020 in December. The future Vienna Viking took the opportunity to play in his native Spain, one of the few places in Europe that played through the winter, for the first time since 2013. He returned to where his senior career began, L’Hospitalet Pioners. The Pioners situation was vastly different from when Botella last suited up for the Catalonia-based team. Despite being the second most successful team in Spanish Football, they were now playing in LNFA Serie B following a turbulent few years. 

Despite playing in the second-tier, the Pioners team still boasted high-quality players, such as future European League Of Football Quarterback Zach Edwards. Botella, who lined up as a Wide Receiver and a Tight End, and Edwards formed a lethal duo, leading their team to a perfect 6-0 record in the regular season, averaging an impressive 36 points per game. The Pioners continued their fantastic form into the post-season, dispatching the Granada Lions in the semi-finals and the Barberà Rookies in the final to win the LNFA Serie B, earning promotion back to the top flight in the process. Botella ended his second spell with the L’Hospitalet de Llobregat-based team with 591 receiving yards from 47 catches, averaging 12.7 yards per game, while also scoring seven touchdowns. 

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2021 presented the Barcelona-native with the biggest opportunity of his professional life during a horrific period in his personal life. 

The re-born Hamburg Sea Devils, who were scheduled to play in the newly-formed European League Of Football, enquired about the Tight End’s services. Despite being in its inaugural season, the ELF was able to attract many of the top stars across Europe as they attempted to raise the standard of European American Football across the continent. It was an opportunity Botella simply could not pass up, officially becoming a Sea Devil on 9th April 2021. Unfortunately, as Adrià stated during his section of this article, his father was diagnosed with cancer just weeks before he was scheduled to travel to the North of Germany. 

After being convinced to continue his career by his father, Botella joined up with the Sea Devils and quickly established himself as the best Tight End in the entire European League of Football. The Spaniard, who formed a prolific partnership with American Quarterback Jadrian Clark, was the standout player in the Sea Devils offense. He not only led his team in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, earning 750 yards from 59 receptions and scoring six touchdowns, but he also won Hamburg’s Offensive player of the year award. In addition, the Tight End’s performances throughout the 2021 season were so impressive that he was nominated as an ELF All-Star. He would also be named in multiple Team Of The Year lists by the media, including the AFI’s All Europe list and our own ELF Team of the Year as an undisputed starter. 

Led by one of the most dominant defences in the league and a Botella spearheaded offence, the Sea Devils managed to win the Division North title with a 7-3 record, thus earning a spot in the inaugural ELF Playoffs. The Northern German team faced off against their fellow Division North rivals, Panthers Wrocław, in the semi-finals, where Botella, once again, showed his class on the field. The Tight End caught nine passes for 123 yards as his teams edged out a 30-27 victory in a thrilling match. 

In the inaugural ELF Championship Game, Botella and the Sea Devils faced off against the Frankfurt Galaxy. Unfortunately, the game, which will forever go down as an all-time Euroball classic, did not go the Spaniard’s way. The University of Sioux Falls Alumni led both teams in catches and receiving yards, earning 138 yards from seven receptions, including a game-long 47-yard catch. However, despite Botella putting in an awe-inspiring performance, the Galaxy was the team that lifted the first-ever ELF Championship. In the tightest of fashions, Frankfurt narrowly defeated the Sea Devils 32-30 in Dusseldorf, with the winning touchdown being scored with just 25 seconds left on the clock. 

The heart-breaking Championship game turned out to be Botella’s final game for the Sea Devils. On 21st December 2021, it was announced that the All-Star would be crossing the German-Austrian border for the upcoming 2022 ELF season to join the Vienna Vikings, a newcomer to the ELF and one of the most decorated teams in all of European American Football. 

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A huge thank you to Adrià for contributing to our website. It truly does mean a lot to all of us here. We are honoured that he would share such a personal tale with us and trust us to publish it.

Follow him on Instagram and check him out at the Vienna Vikings in 2022!

Author: Ross Paul

With three years of working as a freelance Sports Journalist and a degree from Sussex University under my belt, I decided that it was time to focus on a passion project of mine. I created Tales From Sport in the hopes of producing the most in-depth, high quality articles about the most interesting stories in the history of sport. My main focus is writing about the NFL, however, I also produced content on the MLB, NHL and Football. I am a die-hard Chicago Bears, Chicago Cubs, Winnipeg Jets, Stevenage FC and AC Milan Fan and avid sports memorabilia collector.

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