Overview: Jonathan Rijo is a versatile offensive lineman who can tackle and guard. He started off his college career at Bethany College in Kansas before transferring to Lincoln University of Pennsylvania. He also played for the Murcia Cobras in Spain where he played offensive lineman and defensive lineman. Before he signed with the Thonon-les-bains Black Panthers, he was a defensive line coach for SUNY Maritime College.
I had the pleasure of doing a follow up interview with Jonathan, during which time he told me about his exciting opportunity with the Thonon-les-bains Black Panthers, his accomplishments, his experience coaching and his goals overseas.
C: How did you get recruited/chosen to play for Thonon-les-bains Black Panthers?
JR: This was all done through an online international recruiting website. I recommend players looking for a chance to play professionally all around the world to use these sites. The well known sites are The Podyum and Europlayers.
C: How was the process of being chosen like?
JR: A private message was sent from the team President Mr. Ben Sirouet. He spoke about Thonon-les-bains, the Black Panters, their goals for 2018 and the type of player they were looking for. My dual citizenship definitely helped, as I wouldn’t count as an American import. I was really considering offers from a few teams in the German Football League, which is arguably the most competitive league outside of North America. The Black Panthers undoubtedly had the best offer. This was surprising to me because the GFL teams usually offer the best, but the Thonon-les-bains Black Panthers are a special and unique team. Another key factor in me turning down other prestigious teams was the Black Panthers also playing in the European Football League. It’s a small percentage of teams around Europe that actually compete in international play. They are also the defending European Football League champions.
C: How does it feel to be signed to the Thonon-les-bains Black Panthers and getting another opportunity to play football professionally?
JR: It’s really exciting to say the least. I wasn’t 100% sure if I wanted to completely stop playing professionally overseas. I had a great rookie season coaching the Defensive Line at 9-1 SUNY Maritime College, but I still felt I have an abundance of football left in me.
C: What new skills have you acquired from playing with the Murcia Cobras last season in Spain, and coaching at Maritime College that you can apply to the Thonon-les-bains Black Panthers?
JR: For starters my rookie season with the Murcia Cobras was great on a personal note. I was exposed to a completely new culture, style of living and brand of football. Having football as a way to see the world is truly a blessing. I actually learned a great deal about the game from coaching in college. More attention to detail, the small things. Flipping roles from a player to a coach is unique, but going back to being a player is almost like a cheat code. I feel my knowledge of the game has grown, this may come useful in critical situations.
C: As you head out to play in France in 2018, What are some of the goals you would like to achieve with the Thonon-les-bains Black Panthers?
JR: Picking up where the 2017 team left off. Going back to the French Elite Championship and winning it this year. Defending the European Football League championship is another top goal. On a more personal note, just being the best I can be, and contribute as much as possible to winning and all aspects of the team.
C: What kind of player can Thonon Black Panthers Football fans expect to see on the field? Do you have a message for Black Panthers Football Thonon fans?
JR: Black Panthers Football fans and supporters can expect a selfless hard working player. They can expect an energetic, passionate and competitive player in the trenches. This team has unfinished business and I plan on being part of a team that has what it takes to achieve all of their goals for 2018.
Locker Room Update would like to thank Jonathan Rijo for taking the time to speak with us. We wish him the best of luck as he continues his journey as a professional football player.
Christa is a syndicated New York Jets beat writer and acts as the primary talent scout for Locker Room Update, where she interviews college football players from around the nation. You can follow her author page on Facebook here for the latest updates.