Augie Stevens

Augie Stevens' coaching journey has taken him to Saint-Laurent-de-la-Salanque, France. 

Augie Stevens has an unusual vantage point for a football coach — one that includes not just locker rooms and hashmarks, but palm trees and the Mediterranean Sea. 

Stevens has crafted an unusual and far-flung career after starring in several sports at Mount Vernon High School, and now that career has taken him to the south of France.

After playing free safety in Australia and coaching nearly everywhere from Spokane to the Czech Republic, he is now the head coach of the Catalans Grizzlys in Saint-Laurent-de-la-Salanque.

This town in the south of France is close enough to the border with Spain that Stevens says he can see the border when looking out his window.

"It's been a series of small towns and fortuitous opportunities," he said. "If someone would have asked me when I was 18, if this was how I thought my life would go, that I'd be coaching pro football in Europe and living on the beach in France ..."

Stevens competed in football and track and field at Mount Vernon before graduating in 2006. He had hoped to walk on to play football at Washington State University and competed briefly at the school in track, but a serious injury ended his plans of doing more in college sports. 

From there, Stevens began bouncing around, first as a player in arena football in the U.S. and for a pro team in Australia, then as a coach in locales as diverse as Spokane (Mead High School), Brisbane, Australia, and the Czech Republic. Stevens coached at the college level in Indiana and Kentucky before heading overseas.

A lot of coaches don't consider coaching American football overseas, Stevens said. But he loves the opportunities the growing sport offers.

"There's a lot of demand and not a lot of coaches know the opportunity exists," he said. "It speaks to me."

That's not to say the route Stevens chose doesn't have its challenges.

There are the demands of coaching several levels of the game at once, as Stevens does in France where he coaches both a high school level team and a pro team.

There's the challenge of recruiting players, which Stevens has also done, including signing a tight end who spent time in NFL camps with Washington and Atlanta.

There's also the potential of a language barrier, such as the time his interpreter in the Czech Republic quit in the first two weeks. (Stevens noted he learned enough of the language to get by. "I could somewhat have a conversation," he said.)

But the rewards are great, too. There's exposure to different people and different cultures. 

"Every country has its own feel. I've enjoyed my time everywhere," Stevens said. "Australians were laid-back and intense when they wanted to be. Then in Czech Republic, I was in a smaller town. It was more salt of the earth. They're living different lives than your typical American."

No matter where he goes, Stevens said, football is football.

"When helmets come on you're speaking the same language. 'I Right Power' ... everyone knows that," he said. "Once you get in their head with the language it's seamless. It's surreal to be surrounded by foreign language but then you hear something in English like 'three and out.'"

Stevens hasn't had as much time to hear those kinds of phrases as he would have liked. He took the reins of the Grizzlys' program as COVID-19 restrictions were in place.

"France is locked down. I can leave the house for an hour a day. Everything I do is from the living room," Stevens said.

The season hasn't started, and the players recruited from the U.S. haven't been able to travel yet, Stevens said. The plans being considered for a season take into account potential lockdowns and restrictions. 

Stevens can't wait to get going. He said he's thrilled to represent the U.S. — and Skagit County — as one of its signature sports is played and watched overseas. 

"In America we're not aware it exists," he said of how widespread football is outside the U.S. "Now when I go to talk to coaches people ask how I did it."

— Reporter Trevor Pyle: 360-416-2156, tpyle@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @goskagit, Facebook.com/bytrevorpyle

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