August 26, 2011

From Finland to UW-Stout

More news about: UW-Stout
Antti Kurennemi
"Like hockey, it is a contact sport and you get to hit people." -- Antti Kurenniemi 

Antti Kurenniemi got his first look at American football when he watched the 2005 Super Bowl between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots on television. He was hooked.

Now, the UW-Stout exchange student from Tampere, Finland, is making his bid for playing time with the Blue Devil football team as a cornerback.

"I found the game so fascinating," Kurenniemi said. "There is a tactical side that is more complex than where I was playing hockey. Like hockey, it is a contact sport and you get to hit people."

Like many Finnish youngsters, Kurenniemi grew up playing hockey and he played hockey for 17 years before putting on the football pads three years ago for a hometown team.

"I started playing hockey at a young age, but I wasn't real talented at it," Kurenniemi said.

Kurenniemi played two years with the Tampere Saints, starting off as a running back in a wishbone formation. He made the switch to defense when the team moved to an I-formation and was the odd man out. Injuries on the defense allowed him to move to cornerback, a spot Kurenniemi found more to his liking.

The Saints were a member of Finland's top tier of eight teams for two seasons. But before the start of the 2011 season, injuries took their toll and the team was forced to drop a couple competition levels.

Kurenniemi wanted to play top-tier ball and went 200 miles to the hometown of his father to find it, playing for the Rajaritarit (Border Knights) from Lappeenranta.

"I wanted to keep playing at the top level," Kurenniemi said, explaining there are three levels of American football in Finland. Kurenniemi played nine games this past spring and summer for the Border Knights before coming to the United States.

A mechanical engineering student at the Tampere University of Applied Sciences, Kurenniemi was looking at coming to the United States on an exchange program. His university had a partnership with two schools – Bemidji State University and UW-Stout.

Kurenniemi had to apply and be accepted by the program and was only asked to rank the two schools in the order he preferred to attend. Stout was his first choice, and he couldn't have been happier when he was assigned to attend Stout.

"I am happy they put me here," said Kurenniemi, who arrived at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport two days before Stout's football camp began. "Everyone has been so interested in Finland and they have been so helpful and nice. I was only allowed two suitcases, so the team helped me out with some things I couldn't bring."

While Kurenniemi was interested in playing football during his stay in the States, he did not contact Stout coach Clayt Birmingham until after he had been accepted to Stout. The coach asked Kurenniemi to send some game tape.

"He contacted us and he sent some film over the internet," Birmingham said. "He was a decent player over there and we wanted to make this a good experience for him."

"I got into school first, then pursued the football," Kurenniemi said. While at Stout for just the single semester, Kurenniemi plans to take some classes in industrial management, a few physical education classes and some American history courses.

Classes have not yet started, but the learning curve for Kurenniemi has started on the football field. Fluent in English, he is just working to process all of the football information he is learning.

"I am pleased with my own progression, but I have a lot to learn," Kurenniemi said. "I have learned so much that I haven't been able to translate everything to the field.

"The pace of the game is faster here, and there is competition for every position. Here there is actually a second string, third string, fourth string. At home, everyone who wants to get in (to the game) does."

"We didn't know what we were going to get when he came in here," said co-defensive coordinator Travis Destache, who works with the defensive backs. "We were really surprised. Athletically, he has all of the tools. He has definitely moved up the depth chart and hopefully we can get him onto the field."

"I didn't expect to play," Kurenniemi said. "I am just happy to get an opportunity to practice. I have done much better than I expected."

Kurenniemi would like to translate his experience at Stout into more playing time when he returns home. Kurenniemi did not make the roster of the Finnish national team and has his sites set on making the 2014 team.

Destache said Kurenniemi has fit in very well with the team.

"He is learning tons, but our guys are learning tons from him," Destache said. "At the end of practice, during stretching, the defensive backs are all learning a Finnish word of the day."

Birmingham, who has made several trips to Europe to promote and teach American football, believes having Kurenniemi as part of the program is good for both sides.

"It is great to have him here," Birmingham said. "This is just another, different experience for our players as well."

Sep. 23: All times Eastern
Final
at Bridgewater State 34, Fitchburg State 25
Box Score
Sep. 24: All times Eastern
Final
Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
Final
at Hobart 27, Union 23
Box Score Recap
Final
at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Massachusetts Maritime 32, Worcester State 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Endicott 37, Nichols 0
Box Score
Final
MIT 30, at Maine Maritime 13
Box Score
Final
at Buffalo State 40, Morrisville State 24
Box Score Recap
Final
at Salve Regina 48, Coast Guard 10
Box Score
Final
St. Lawrence 20, at RPI 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Framingham State 23, Western Connecticut 17
Box Score
Final
at Montclair State 21, Rowan 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
Box Score Recap
Final
at Trinity (Conn.) 38, Bates 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Western New England 59, Curry 28
Box Score
Final
at Utica 24, Cortland 13
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Colby 9, at Williams 7
Box Score Photos
Final
at Middlebury 40, Bowdoin 3
Box Score
Final
at Amherst 34, Hamilton 0
Box Score
Final
Kean 24, at William Paterson 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at DePauw 66, Hiram 17
Box Score Recap
Final
Franklin and Marshall 45, at Juniata 22
Box Score
Final
at Kenyon 31, Allegheny 7
Box Score
Final
Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
Box Score
Final
Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
Box Score Recap
Final
Lycoming 28, at Misericordia 24
Box Score
Final
at Plymouth State 30, Mass-Dartmouth 14
Box Score
Final
at Husson 35, Alfred State 0
Box Score
Final
at Springfield 28, WPI 23
Box Score Recap
Final
at Moravian 24, Dickinson 10
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Denison 45, Wooster 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
Box Score
Final
at St. Vincent 57, Grove City 32
Box Score Recap
Final
at Susquehanna 55, Gettysburg 40
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at King's 21, Lebanon Valley 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Alfred 20, Ithaca 6
Box Score Recap
Final
at Widener 25, Wilkes 23
Final
at McDaniel 30, Ursinus 27
Box Score Recap
Final
at Muskingum 28, Marietta 10
Box Score Photos
Final
at Minnesota-Morris 28, Iowa Wesleyan 27
Final
at John Carroll 42, Heidelberg 14
Box Score
Final
Ohio Northern 16, at Otterbein 10
Box Score Photos
Final
Case Western Reserve 35, at Waynesburg 7
Box Score
Final
at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
Box Score Recap
Final
Rose-Hulman 23, at Defiance 15
Box Score
Final
at Centre 49, Chicago 27
Box Score
Final
at Mount St. Joseph 38, Manchester 19
Box Score Recap
Final
Hanover 49, at Anderson 25
Box Score
Final
at Merchant Marine 55, Rochester 7
Box Score
Final
Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
Box Score Recap
Final
Concordia-Chicago 42, at Maranatha Baptist 10
Box Score Photos
Final
Washington U. 36, at Birmingham-Southern 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
Box Score
Final
at Northwestern (Minn.) 38, Martin Luther 20
Box Score
Final
at Eureka 28, MacMurray 13
Box Score
Final
at Westminster (Mo.) 35, Greenville 14
Box Score
Final
Dubuque 30, at Luther 17
Box Score Recap
Final
Monmouth 52, at Lake Forest 6
Box Score Photos
Final
St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Augsburg 49, Carleton 17
Box Score Photos
Final
Bethel 44, at St. Olaf 7
Box Score
Final
at Hamline 42, Gustavus Adolphus 40
Box Score Recap
Final
at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
Box Score Photos
Final
at UW-River Falls 42, Southwestern 22
Box Score
Final
Simpson 17, at Buena Vista 9
Box Score
Final
at St. Scholastica 49, Crown 13
Box Score Recap
Final
Cornell 46, at Beloit 41
Box Score
Final
at Carthage 27, Augustana 24
Final
Coe 48, at Nebraska Wesleyan 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wartburg 56, Finlandia 0
Box Score
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
Recap
Final
Hendrix 42, at Millsaps 14
Box Score
Final
Illinois Wesleyan 45, at North Park 10
Final
at Macalester 34, Grinnell 0
Box Score
Final
at Ripon 33, Knox 19
Final
Illinois College 40, at Lawrence 15
Final
UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
Box Score
Final
Central 42, at Loras 34
Box Score Recap
Final
at Geneva 35, Thiel 27
Final
UW-Eau Claire 40, at Wisconsin Lutheran 14
Box Score
Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Stevens Point 44, at Adrian 19
Box Score
Final
UW-La Crosse 41, at Carroll 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Berry 41, Sewanee 3
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Westminster (Pa.) 38, at Bethany 9
Final
Ohio Wesleyan 29, at Oberlin 16
Box Score
Final
at Tufts 17, Wesleyan 14
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Capital 35, Wilmington 21
Box Score
Final
at Southwestern Assemblies 23, Austin 17
Photos
Cancelled
Langston at McMurry
Video Live Stats
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Chapman 19, Trinity (Texas) 17
Box Score Recap
Sep. 24: All times Eastern
Final
at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hobart 27, Union 23
Box Score Recap
Final
Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
Final
at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
Box Score
Final
Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
Box Score
Final
Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Utica 24, Cortland 13
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
Box Score Recap
Final
at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
Box Score Recap
Final
Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
Box Score Recap
Final
St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
Recap
Final
UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
Box Score
Final
UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
Box Score
Final
Central 42, at Loras 34
Box Score Recap
Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
Box Score Recap
Final
Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
Box Score Recap