Utah football: A Swiss passport makes Chappuis a Euro star
College football • Former Ute soaks up the culture while playing in Dresden.
Published: April 29, 2014 10:40AM
Updated: April 29, 2014 07:27AM
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Scott Sommerdorf | Tribune file photo Safety Quade Chappuis, 19, truns to look for the ball during opening day of Utah football summer training camp, Thursday, August 2, 2012.

There’s something about Quade Chappuis that you just can’t teach.

It’s not his 4.51-second 40, and it’s not the ball-tracking skills that allowed the Utes to switch him seamlessly from free safety to strong safety to linebacker.

It’s his Swiss citizenship.

When the German Football League’s Dresden Monarchs signed Chappuis this spring, they not only gained a seasoned American player, but one who isn’t limited by restrictions on non-EU citizens.

And in return?

“I saw it as an opportunity to see something new,” Chappuis told The Salt Lake Tribune via Skype last week. “I’ve been in Utah my whole life, and I’ve been wanting to just explore.”

Chappuis grew up in Alpine, not the Alps. Still, he inherits citizenship rights as the son of a natural-born Swiss man, Marcel, who moved from Basel to Utah at age 6 after his mother baptized his family into the LDS Church.

In five years at the U., Chappuis recorded 62 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception. A few NFL teams invited him to mini-camps, he said, but he didn’t want to become a paid tackling dummy. He wanted to play — really play — or hang up his cleats.

Chappuis had heard about the European football scene from former Utah cornerback Lewis Walker, who signed with Sweden’s Carlstad Crusaders in 2013 and said it was the time of his life.

“To be honest, that’s the first time I knew it even existed,” Chappuis said.

But European football knew about Chappuis.

A GFL coach reached out on Facebook, and when Chappuis realized the advantage of his birthright, he began to shop himself around. Before long, he had his pick of historic locales. Dresden stood out both for its competitiveness —the Monarchs reached the German Bowl last season — and its culture.

His teammates include players from Poland, Switzerland, France, Czech Republic and Australia, and they’re all coached in English. The Monarchs (who opened their 19-game season with a 33-29 loss to Kiel Baltic on Saturday) employ three other Americans: Delta State running back Trevar Deed, Western Michigan quarterback Jeff Welsh and Western Oregon linebacker Sherman Vercher. Only two of those three are allowed on the field at a time, but Chappuis has no such restrictions.

The talent level is “actually pretty good,” he said. “I’d say it’s close to a D-II or D-III school.”

While working out at the Utah Football Center, Chappuis discussed his move with former safeties coach Morgan Scalley, who served an LDS mission from 1999 to 2000 in Munich. Scalley said it’s a joy to see all the hard work pay off for one of his players — even in Deutschland.

“He’s a guy that’s done nothing but bust his tail to become a great football player,” he said. “Never a ‘me’ guy. … He’s in a situation where because of what he’s learned about the game and because of playing at the Pac-12 level, he will be asked to play a leadership role.”

Chappuis was a safety and running back at Lone Peak. At the U. he lined up at free safety, strong safety and linebacker. Now, for Dresden, he might play just about anywhere, from defensive back to wide receiver to kick returner, etc.

He earns a modest salary, about $3,000 a month, but his apartment and car are paid for by the team. Only Chappuis and fellow so-called “imports” are paid. The rest of his team plays for “the love of the game,” he said, and they practice at night because so many have day jobs.

“I love it,” he said, adding that he’s still learning the German road rules — like no rights on red — in his team-leased Brilliance. “It’s been so much fun. I got off the plane and the city has a bunch of cool architecture, and the old buildings … it’s kind of like being in a history lesson.”

He’s hooked on Doner kebabs, and the only thing he misses about home so far? Sour Patch Kids.

Next week he’ll start German classes. When the season is over at the end of October, he’s thinking about taking a month to see Europe before coming home.

He realizes this won’t last forever.

Eventually Chappuis expects to take over the troubled youth programs owned by his father, who worked for 30 years as a juvenile court psychologist.

And dad could sure use his help.

“But I’m not going to get in the way of this thing,” Marcel said. “This will be here. [What Quade’s doing] is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper

Quade Chappuis

Height • 5’11

Weight • 200 pounds

Hometown • Alpine

Degree • Bachelor’s in psychology

At Utah • 62 tackles as a free safety, strong safety, linebacker and special teams contributor. Redshirted in 2009 and played in 41 games from 2010 to 2013.