/seasons/2011/contrib/20110826pjtb08

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."

Oct. 20: All times Eastern
Final
at Johns Hopkins 52, Gettysburg 0
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Oct. 21: All times Eastern
Final
at Framingham State 29, Westfield State 14
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Moravian 20, at Juniata 17
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at Salve Regina 41, Endicott 14
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Final
at Thomas More 63, St. Vincent 13
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at Union 28, Hobart 23
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at Hamilton 27, Colby 24
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at Christopher Newport 27, William Paterson 19
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at Ithaca 35, St. John Fisher 10
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at Allegheny 44, Kenyon 35
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SUNY-Maritime 21, at Mount Ida 13
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Middlebury 43, at Bates 14
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at Springfield 68, Catholic 20
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at Amherst 21, Wesleyan 17
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at Trinity (Conn.) 63, Bowdoin 14
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Husson 48, at Gallaudet 21
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Wabash 35, at Oberlin 21
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at Utica 34, Buffalo State 12
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Ohio Northern 7, at Muskingum 6
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at Frostburg State 62, Montclair State 3
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at Wesley 34, Rowan 3
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at Stevenson 26, Albright 23
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Wittenberg 52, at DePauw 6
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at Albion 31, Alma 28
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at Guilford 45, Shenandoah 20
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Plymouth State 40, at Massachusetts Maritime 14
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Wooster 58, at Hiram 25
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Washington and Lee 36, at Hampden-Sydney 6
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at Anna Maria 36, Alfred State 34
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Bridgewater 31, at Emory and Henry 23
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at FDU-Florham 49, Wilkes 31
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Lebanon Valley 17, at Misericordia 0
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at St. Lawrence 36, Rochester 14
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RPI 30, at Alfred 15
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at Curry 46, Nichols 16
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at Salisbury 42, Southern Virginia 0
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Ferrum 27, at Brevard 24
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Randolph-Macon 63, at Apprentice 14
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at Susquehanna 21, Ursinus 14
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Cortland 34, at Morrisville State 20
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at Trine 50, Hope 14
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Trinity (Texas) 27, at Sewanee 21
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Wartburg 41, at Luther 16
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at Franklin and Marshall 56, Dickinson 0
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Tufts 21, at Williams 13
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Mount Union 66, at Wilmington 7
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MIT 30, at Coast Guard 21
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at Norwich 24, Maine Maritime 22
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at Marietta 44, Heidelberg 21
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Franklin 29, at Rose-Hulman 22
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John Carroll 48, at Capital 21
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at Manchester 28, Bluffton 21
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Mount St. Joseph 71, at Anderson 27
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UW-Whitewater 20, at UW-River Falls 7
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Kean 26, at TCNJ 3
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at LaGrange 59, Greensboro 10
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at Worcester State 45, Mass-Dartmouth 40
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Muhlenberg 40, at McDaniel 13
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Final
Western New England 45, at Becker 0
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Final
at Maryville (Tenn.) 35, Methodist 14
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Adrian 36, at Kalamazoo 22
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Final
Denison 31, at Ohio Wesleyan 20
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Final - OT
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Westminster (Pa.) 33
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Final
Berry 37, at Millsaps 22
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at Benedictine 43, Olivet 37
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Birmingham-Southern 31, at Austin 24
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Belhaven 7
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at UW-Stout 23, UW-Stevens Point 17
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Eureka 37, at MacMurray 20
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at Illinois Wesleyan 13, Carthage 10
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Nebraska Wesleyan 14, at Buena Vista 13
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Lakeland 48, at Wisconsin Lutheran 0
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at Aurora 28, Rockford 21
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at Concordia-Chicago 37, Concordia (Wis.) 17
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at St. Olaf 29, Carleton 26
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at St. John's 41, Gustavus Adolphus 17
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at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Augsburg 20
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St. Thomas 84, at Hamline 0
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Final
Westminster (Mo.) 24, at Greenville 14
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at Loras 44, Coe 38
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Monmouth 61, at Cornell 10
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Wheaton (Ill.) 56, at North Park 0
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Final
Northwestern (Minn.) 30, at Martin Luther 14
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Hardin-Simmons 33, at Texas Lutheran 30
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Final
at Lake Forest 70, Grinnell 6
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at Millikin 56, Carroll 35
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Final
at Macalester 47, Ripon 31
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at St. Norbert 38, Lawrence 6
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Final
St. Scholastica 49, at Crown 21
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at Iowa Wesleyan 24, Minnesota-Morris 17
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UW-Platteville 34, at UW-Eau Claire 14
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at WPI 41, Merchant Marine 7
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Final
at Centre 42, Rhodes 35
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Final
Hanover 49, at Earlham 14
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Final
at Chicago 55, Beloit 12
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Final
UW-Oshkosh 42, at UW-La Crosse 28
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Final - OT
at Dubuque 28, Simpson 27
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at North Central (Ill.) 54, Augustana 2
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at East Texas Baptist 68, Louisiana College 35
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at Brockport 45, Hartwick 0
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Final
Western Connecticut 27, at Bridgewater State 20
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Final
Chapman 38, at La Verne 21
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Pacific 17, at Lewis and Clark 7
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Pacific Lutheran 27, at Willamette 14
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at Whitworth 38, Puget Sound 23
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Redlands 42, at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 25
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at Linfield 12, George Fox 6
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Sul Ross State 52, at Howard Payne 15
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at Castleton 17, Dean 14
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N.C. Wesleyan 21, at Averett 15
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at Otterbein 37, Baldwin Wallace 29
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Case Western Reserve 45, at Geneva 7
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Carnegie Mellon 42, at Thiel 10
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at Illinois College 23, Knox 13
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at Cal Lutheran 60, Whittier 34
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Cancelled
Occidental at Pomona-Pitzer
Oct. 20: All times Eastern
Final
at Johns Hopkins 52, Gettysburg 0
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Oct. 21: All times Eastern
Final
at Wesley 34, Rowan 3
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Final
at Frostburg State 62, Montclair State 3
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Final
Wittenberg 52, at DePauw 6
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at Springfield 68, Catholic 20
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Final
Wartburg 41, at Luther 16
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Final
Mount Union 66, at Wilmington 7
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Final
at Marietta 44, Heidelberg 21
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Final - OT
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Westminster (Pa.) 33
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Final
Hardin-Simmons 33, at Texas Lutheran 30
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Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Belhaven 7
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Final
St. Thomas 84, at Hamline 0
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Final
at St. John's 41, Gustavus Adolphus 17
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Final
at Illinois Wesleyan 13, Carthage 10
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Final
at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Augsburg 20
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Final
Berry 37, at Millsaps 22
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Final
UW-Platteville 34, at UW-Eau Claire 14
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Final
UW-Oshkosh 42, at UW-La Crosse 28
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Final
at North Central (Ill.) 54, Augustana 2
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Final
at Brockport 45, Hartwick 0
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Final
at Linfield 12, George Fox 6
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Final
Case Western Reserve 45, at Geneva 7
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