Swedish sophomores’ journey

Oscar Hamrelius (#54) and Walter Lundstroem (#53) getting ready to line up for a snap against Fitchburg State.

American football is known to be the dominant sport in America, but most foreigners across the world clown us for calling what we know as “soccer” football. It’s a unique sport that garners a lot of love and appreciation from many across the country. In 2022 Castleton attracted two Swedish players to come play college football. Those two individuals were Oscar Hamrelius and Walter Lundstroem.

Both Hamrelius and Lundstroem were familiar with each other, as they both attended the same high school for three years in Sweden and played football together throughout those years. They grew a bond through football but each of them had different reasoning for playing the game.

Hamrelius’s big brother was a big influence on him as he grew interest for football. His brother, who is four years older than him, started playing football at 15. At this time Hamrelius was focused on soccer but knew he wanted to try something new at some point. Initially Hamrelius didn’t understand football but stayed engaged for the support of his brother.

“I didn’t get the purpose of football but I saw that my brother was really dedicated to it, which I thought was pretty cool,” Hamrelius said. “Around 14 or 15 which is around the same time my brother began playing, I realized I was getting bored with soccer so I gave football a shot. At this point my brother was done playing and was now coaching so he recruited me to the high school he coached at and he coached me all three years of high school.”

Lundstroem didn’t have the luxury of looking up to an older brother and seeing the ins and outs of what it means to be a football player. His introduction to football came through YouTube videos and television. Lundstroem’s journey into getting a grasp for football shows he had an appreciation for the game without all the knowledge.

“I watched a lot of YouTube videos of big hits and enjoyed the cool masculine side of football but I really learned football through a TV show called Blue Mountain State,” Lundstroem said. “Blue Mountain State gave me the picture of what football was like but a guy in my class who played for a local club team convinced me to play with his team.”

Initially Lundstroem and Hamrelius didn’t believe playing football in America would be a possibility. They felt because they started playing at an older age that football would be an activity they committed to only in high school. But around their second year in high school both of them grew an aspiration to continue playing after high school.

“Playing football in high school kind of got me thinking it would be cool to go to America and play the sport from America in America,” Lundstroem said. “My second year is when I started to look at America as a possibility because I saw a couple guys I’d been playing with go to America and play so I thought maybe that could be something for me. Once that popped into my head, I couldn’t stop thinking about it so I realized that’s what I want to do,” Hamrelius said. “Once I realized that, I started training to become the best player I could

possibly be because I knew if I didn’t get recruited to play in America I would be done, continuing to play Sweden just wasn’t happening if I wanted to become the best player I could be,” Hamrelius added.

Being an international recruit allows for a different recruiting process. Especially being over 3,00 miles away, the face to face interaction was non-existent. This forces both recruiters and the players being recruited to do their homework on what they can expect. Lundstroem and Hamrelius had the help of a recruiting agency to get in contact with potential colleges. They’d played football together for the past three years so finding a school that was interested in both of them was huge.

Sophomore Walter Lundstroem is pictured playing high school football in Sweden.

“We didn’t know any schools so we found this company that helped us find colleges in the area we were interested in and they sent out our highlights and contact information,” Lundstroem said. “The company came back with a couple of schools that were interested in us which were Castleton and Norwich,” Hamrelius said. “Our first meeting was virtually with Coach V, the Castleton ski coach, and an admissions person. They basically walked us through what life was like as a student-athlete here at Castleton,” Hamrelius added.

During the virtual meeting the Castleton ski coach also set up a meeting for Swedish skiers who were on the team to speak to both Lundstroem and Hamrelius about what life was like here as an international athlete. After all the conversations with coaches, admissions, and others connected Castleton, Lundstroem and Hamrelius both liked Castleton. When it came down to making a final decision, they found out Norwich was a military school so that’s when they knew Castleton was the place for them.

Head football coach at Castleton Tony Volpone was pleased with the recruiting process he went through with both Lundstroem and Hamrelius. Volpone felt like these two individuals were heavily invested in their futures as athletes and students.

“During the zoom meeting we had I could tell they both did their homework about Castleton because they came with a lot of questions which I thought was great because it showed they were interested prior to our meeting,” Volpone said. “International kids have a little bit different schooling so I think the transition from Sweden to here wasn’t going to be tough for them because they are more mature and a bit more developed, which are good things.”

Now that Lundstroem and Hamrelius are now sophomores their development as student-athletes has been encouraging. Volpone believes they’ve improved as players, as both of them have become important pieces in the area of special teams. They are people who should and will be factors in the area of special teams moving forward. But they’ve also done well academically, maintaining good grades and staying out of trouble when it comes to off-campus activity.

Being an international student-athletes and coming from such a far distance was difficult for them at first. Both Lundstroem and Hamrelius moms were a bit skeptical of having their child be so far away from home. But were supportive of the decision because they knew this is what they wanted to do. 

Lundstroem and Hamrelius were a bit nervous with this decision because it was a different environment they were stepping into but not scared. Once they settled in and got an opportunity to meet the team, everything felt less daunting.

“When I got a chance to meet the team everybody was really nice, we didn’t have a lot of practices early on, so I got to know people when we had lift together,” Hamrelius said. “It took awhile for me to feel a part of the team because we weren’t doing a lot of team activity but once fall of 2022 came and the season began I felt more comfortable,” Hamrelius added.

“Being a part of the football team was definitely a help when it came to meeting people and making new friends, especially being on a big sports team it helps you have a welcoming feeling,” Lundstroem said. “I didn’t feel home sick a lot because I grew relationships with people whom I could trust.”

With two years of eligibility left Lundstroem and Hamrelius will look to improve and enjoy their experience of being college football players. But each of them have different outlooks on what keeps them going as players.

“I have two main reasons, first is I think about people I played with in Sweden who don’t have the opportunity to do what I’m doing right now so taking advantage of an opportunity like this is big,” Hamrelius said. “Also I want to make my family proud because they’ve been supportive and the goal for me has been to become the best football player I could be and not have any regrets.”

“I enjoy just moving and being active and it’s nice to be on a team because at that point I have set times for when I’m moving and it’s mostly everydays,” Lundstroem said. “ Football was different back home but now I just like being on a team because you feel like you belong somewhere and you’re appreciated.”

Though they are both from Sweden, Lundstroem and Hamrelius are pretty different, with different likes and dislikes. Hamrelius has been a driven individual who executes whatever he puts his mind to. As a kid, Hamrelius had aspirations of becoming a successful businessman.

“I remember in middle school I came to school with my homework being wrinkly because it was stuffed in my backpack and my teacher said to me I can’t do this because what’s gonna happen when older and I hand my boss a piece of paper like this. Well that won’t happen because when I’m older I’ll have a suit and a portfolio so the paper won’t get wrinkly,” Hamrelius said.

Lundstroem, on the other hand, is more of a joker, and an outdoorsy guy with lots of interests.

“I’m a good cook, I do carpetary when I’m not here, I’m a big ski guy and I’ve played 12 or 13 different sports growing up as a kid,” Lundstroem said.

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