Tigers History 2001 – 2004


By Bo Thygesen, editing by Jon Haugaard, Mikkel Guldbjerg and Brian Woodward


After several years of dominance, the outlook for the 2001 Aarhus Tiger season was somewhat bleaker.

During the final games of the 2000 season’s Trophy Tournament, Aarhus had difficulty even pulling together a full roster of players. Among the returning players in 2001, enthusiasm and training discipline was at a low point. In fact, it was only at a player meeting four days before the start of the season that the Tigers counted 15 heads and knew they could field a full 11-man team and make the trip to Fredrikssund.      

The Frederikssund Oaks had been newly promoted to the National League from the first division, and the game in Frederikssund would turn out to be the closest of the season for the Tigers. At the end of the fourth quarter, the scoreboard read 8-8 and the game went into overtime. In overtime, neither team scored and a serious injury to one of Aarhus’ players meant an ambulance had to be called. The teams and officiating crew agreed to stop the game at the end of overtime and accept the tie. The next game against the Herlev Rebels was also a tight affair, but, in the end, with no coach on the sideline, the game got away from Aarhus and ended in a 12-6 loss. 

The first two games made it clear that another Danish championship was not in the cards for the Tigers in 2001. Instead, the focus for the season turned quickly to survival and avoiding relegation back to the first division. But, still lacking a head coach, the Tiger’s next three games, showed that it would not be easy with losses to the Roskilde Kings (48-0), Greve Monarchs (34-0) and Copenhagen Towers (32-8).     

Luckily, reinforcements showed up to help turn the season around. American Matt Langley, who was living in Aarhus at the time, showed up at the Tiger’s clubhouse and took over at QB.  Veteran Jesper Elming, who decided to stop his playing career the previous season due to an injury, also returned to the club as offensive coordinator. This partnership between Langley and Elming would prove fruitful in the season’s remaining games.

Against Herlev, in the final game before the summer break, the Tigers managed to shut out Herlev in the first half (which in itself was a small victory). But the Tigers were also held to zero points going in to halftime. In the second half, the Tigers offense continued to stall, and fatigue began to set in on defense. The game ended in a 24-0 loss, but the halftime shutout, the new QB and the new coaching situation all contributed to a renewed optimism for the fall. 

That momentum held through the summer break and into the fall’s first game against the Copenhagen Towers. In the first half, Aarhus sacked Towers QB Tarik Kahn six times and the Tiger offense scored three touchdowns of its own to end the half 22-0. But the second half was all Towers. With just 25 seconds left in the game and a 22-16 score, Kahn took off with the ball on QB keep. During the run, miraculously, he fumbled, and the ball was scooped up by Aarhus’ Morten Faarup to secure the season’s first win.

The next game against Frederikssund would determine which team would slide into the bottom ranking in the National League. Hot off the surprising victory against the Towers, Aarhus’ morale and motivation was at a season high and it could be seen on the field. In a one-sided outing, Aarhus walked away with a 34-0 victory and ensured home field advantage for the relegation game. That advantage would be needed after the season’s final two games ended in lopsided losses to the league’s best teams – first against Roskilde (37-6) and then Greve (58-8).

The season’s most important game, as expected, was the relegation game and second season rematch against the Oaks where the Tigers had homefield advantage. Frederikssund showed up in Aarhus with a big roster and seemed intent on revenge from the start, but their hopes were promptly doused.  The game ended 12-0 with a Tiger victory, sending Frederikssund back to the first division and allowing the Tigers to remain in the Danish National league for the 2002 season.

IN 2001, the Tigers’ Junior division was growing strong as was the junior league in Denmark as a whole. At the start of the season, the Junior league was the biggest it had ever been in DAFF’s history with nine teams. Aarhus recorded victories over the Holstebro Dragons, Herning Hawks, Copenhagen Towers and Triangle Razorbacks during the course of the season, which led to a wild card game against the Kronborg Knights- whom the Tigers had lost to early in the season. The game ended in another loss to the Knights, but progress was made on several fronts in building the junior program.   

One reason was the play of QB Niels Munk Pedersen (Vesterdal) and his favorite target, Wide Receiver Anders Andersen. The dynamic duo was cut short at the summer break, however, when Niels left to play high school football in Nebraska. This meant the Kristian “Hightower” Rasmussen had to take over the reins as quarterback for the remainder of the season.

Following the season, a group of junior players took part in a DGI-sponsored activities weekend focused on creating better clubs. The result was that the Tigers started a youth council for young Tigers players that would give them more exposure and influence in the club’s longer-term development. This council proved to be fruitful, creating a number of dedicated leaders and coaches for the club in the years that followed. 

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For the seniors, training for the 2002 season began in January at Marselisborg Athletic Hall. A large number of new players showed up for the first practices, and the coaching staff was growing. By March, the staff was in place with Jesper Elming as head coach and Rune Holmå, Niels Stærkjær and Bo Thygesen as assistants. In April, the team held a training camp with Avedøre Monarchs at Åhavevej that showed that Aarhus was again ready to play amongst the best teams in 2002.

The first game was against the newly promoted Herning Hawks, and it turned into a barn burner. After going back and forth through the game, Herning ended up winning the final seconds. It was an exciting start to the season and left both the players and coaches hungry for more. The next game against the Copenhagen Towers was proof that a fire had been lit under Aarhus. That game ended with a 48-14 victory.  Aarhus met Avedøre in the season’s third game, an opponent they had already seen in the preseason camp and scrimmage, but despite the first-hand scouting early on, Aarhus ended up being bested by the Monarchs 19-7.   

Kasper Petersen stood under center for the Tigers and played three solid games, but when Niels Munk Pedersen returned from his time in the United States, it seemed predetermined that he would take over the QB duties. This meant Aarhus could use Kasper Petersen as a WR, a position where he later would later earn on a spot on the Danish national team.   

The season’s first away-game was against the undefeated Roskilde Kings. Aarhus kept the game close in the first half, but in the third quarter the Kings pulled away with help of a number of Aarhus turnovers. Although Aarhus was the first team to even score against Roskilde this season, the game ended in a 50-18 loss.

The next two games were must wins if the Tigers were to stay out of the bottom of the league rankings. And those two wins came convincingly – first with a 39-6 victory over the Copenhagen Towers and then 60-6 thrashing of the Herlev Rebels. The seasons high point was undoubtedly the next game against the Herning Hawks. By now, Niels Munk had begun to learn how to run the offensive system and his partnership with Jesper Elming was developing successfully.  Despite being down at halftime in the Hawks game, Aarhus came back to snatch a 27-22 win and to ensure yet another season in the National League.

Having played seven games before the summer break, there were now only four left in the fall. And the team had no only preserved their NL spot, but also opened a little window to a possible semifinal berth in the playoffs. The first two fall games ended in losses, as expected, to Avedøre (41-0) and Roskilde (27-0), but the third game ended in a big victory over Herlev (58-0), despite a thin sideline. That win alone ensured the semifinal berth, in which the Tigers would again meet Avedøre. In the semifinal, the Tigers’ powerful second-half play was not enough to overcome a lackluster first half, which meant the Monarchs could deal yet another defeat to Aarhus 31-18 ending the 2002 season with a semifinal loss. 

In the junior Tiger ranks, the so-called “Zulu effect” was becoming more and more apparent. The “Zulu effect” began in Denmark in 2000 when television station TV2 Zulu began broadcasting NFL games every Sunday (instead of just showing the Super Bowl once a year). The broadcasts were hosted by Tiger alum Claus Elming and co-host Jimmy Bøjgaard. Elming’s and Bøjgaard’s ability to explain the sport combined with their popcorn munching, on-screen chemistry and banter in the long advertising breaks (something Danes weren´t used to) made the show a big hit amongst young men. This eventually led to more and more wanting to try the sport and an increase in players in Danish clubs.

2002 was the first year the Tigers fielded a U-16 team with a season that was played in the spring, before the U19 season started in July. The U-16 team played a solid first season, making it all the way to the semifinal before losing to Triangle Razorbacks. 

The U-19, on the other hand, had a tough year. The team experienced several lopsided losses early in the season and then had two games cancelled when opponents did not have enough players to field a whole team.  The team picked up a couple wins later in the season but ended up losing their final game to Hostlebro.


In 2003, Jesper Elming stepped down as head coach in order to focus on his studies, and the club’s board was sent looking for a new coach. The job went to Benny Kristensen who had played quarterback for the Tigers in the mid-1990s and stood behind center in Mermaid Bowl VII.

On the defensive side of the ball, Brian Simonsen stood at the helm. Simonsen had just moved to Aarhus to study and had previously played for Odense as a junior. In Aarhus he decided to focus exclusively on coaching.

The Zulu effect continued and the increased TV exposure to American football meant that in March of 2003, 50 players donned the striped helmets and were ready to take on another season.

The Tigers lost the first game of the season in overtime to Frederikssund, 6-0, but the even worse news was that star quarterback Niels Munk suffered a serious knee injury. This was one reason the Tigers were pummeled in the following week’s scrimmage against the Tyrasö Royal Crowns. The regular season’s second game went only a little better but ended in yet another loss to the Copenhagen Towers.

The threat of relegation loomed again, and after a difficult season with 9 losses and just one victory over Herning, that threat became a reality. For the second time in club history, the senior team was forced out of the National League and would spend the 2004 season in the first division.

For the Juniors, the season started with a camp and parent’s evening in March. U16 followed their inaugural season up with another great year with Niclas Klixbüll in the drivers seat, going undefeated in regular season play. In the semifinal they met defending champs Herlev and pulled off an impressive win, but in the championship Future Bowl II, they lost a close game, 12-8, to a top tuned team from Copenhagen Towers.

The U19 team finished the season 5-3, an improvement from the previous year. However, because both Triangle Razorbacks and Varde Maniacs stood with a 7-1 record, the team didn’t get a chance to play in the semifinal game at season’s end.

2003 was also the year that Tiger Hall-of-famer Morten Glenthøj’s hard work lead to the establishment of the Aarhus Tigers Cheerleading. The cheerleading squad was on the sidelines for nearly all the junior games throughout the season, and the 15 girls on the team were well coached by Sandra Sencindiver.  Aarhus Tigers cheerleaders took part in the Danish Cheerleading championships in the spring and won in cheerdance for juniors.

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After a year of being away from the game, Jesper Elming returned to the post of Head Coach for the 2004 season, which was a real boost for many of the players. Brian Simonsen was also on the sidelines again and the two welcomed a third assistant, Palle Schriver, a Tiger veteran who had played for the club for several of the previous years. 

The goal for the season was a return to the Danish National League, just as the Tigers had done in 1994, but despite a squad with a number of solid, NL-quality players on the defensive side like Tobias Edvardsen, Thor Mikkelsen, Jan Holm, Ulrik Farmer and the newly-returned Jakob Vingren, and with players like Glenthøj, Nicolai Blom and Kasper Petersen on offense, the team never truly managed to find its highest gear.  

The season started with a convincing 42-6 win over Esbjerg and was followed up by a 14-0 shutout of the Aalborg 89ers. Both wins came thanks to a balanced defense and a solid running game. But the passing game was lacking and, eventually, opponents began to take advantage of the weakness. The initial wins were followed up with back-to-back losses to Herlev, 34-0 and 8-0. The Tigers snapped up a third win against Esbjerg, 34-21, at home before the big rival game with the Triangle Razorbacks.

That game was proof that the balance-of-power in football in Jutland had shifted squarely to Vejle. Aarhus was first on the board and took a quick six-point lead, but immediately from there, it was all Razor- led by quarterback Peter Worm and playmaker Christian Worm. Christian Worm took the ensuing kickoff to the house before proceeding to put up 21 more points in the game himself. It ended with a 41-6 bludgeoning of Aarhus and a trip to the National League for Vejle, which would go on to dominate the NL for many years after. For the Tigers it meant another year in the first division and the acknowledgment that there was still rebuilding work to be done.