A University of Wisconsin Oshkosh football alumnus is using the skills and lessons he learned as a player under then-defensive coordinator and now-current Titan head football coach Pat Cerroni to direct his own team—the Prague Lions, an upstart semi-pro Czech League of American Football.
Zach Harrod, ’04, a native of Lake Geneva, originally moved to the Czech Republic with Athletes in Action after graduating with a degree in religious studies. He began playing with the Prague Lions in 2004 and added coaching duties when he was named head coach of the U19 Prague Lions team in 2009.
“My heart is for coaching in the Czech Republic,” he said. “I am able to speak the language of American football, and as a result, change lives.”
Harrod, who led the U19 team to five championships over the past eight seasons, took ownership of the Lions organization with six others prior to the start of this past season and became the head coach of the senior team.
“A year ago, I almost walked away from the Lions and football in general,” Harrod said. “After talking with my wife, my father (Badger High School football coach Doug Harrod), family and doing a ton of praying, I decided to not step back but step forward.”
That step forward was the right decision for Harrod and the Lions. With his leadership, the team strung together a 9-1 regular season record and won its semifinal game, 42-20, over the Vysocina Gladiators to earn a spot in this year’s Czech Bowl.
Six days after welcoming his second son—Artur František—Harrod and the Lions played in the Czech Bowl; the Czech National Championship game and defeated the Ostrava Steelers, 29-23, to become national champions.
“To win a national championship in year one of this new phase is like a dream or a movie,” Harrod said.
Harrod credits much of his time at UW Oshkosh and the leadership Cerroni instilled in him to his success.
“Playing for Coach Cerroni was tough but amazing; he helped me understand the game so deeply,” Harrod said. “My time at Oshkosh prepared me for the challenges ahead, not only as a football player or coach, but also as a man.”