Photo: Lola Morales
At 6’5, 250 pounds, with soft hands, Las Rozas Black Demons receiver Mavin Saunders will definitely present a matchup nightmare for the Badalona Dracs defensive backs in the Spanish League of American Football title game this weekend.
That shouldn’t be so surprising. The soft-spoken Saunders from the Bahamas, has been making life miserable for Spanish defensive secondaries all season.
The Madrid-based Black Demons brought in the massive former Florida State and Kansas University tight end this past February in hopes of making a deep playoff run. It’s safe to say the investment has paid off as Saunders has become one of the most versatile offensive weapons in the Spanish LNFA. His height, leaping ability, and good hands have made him one of quarterback Chris Merchant’s favorite targets, especially in the redzone.
Merchant explains Saunders impact on the game:
“Mavin has had a huge impact on our team this year. If he’s not making an impact by catching the ball it’s because he’s attracting double teams and opening someone else up or because he’s making blocks for other guys. He has been very unselfish despite being one of the best players on the field at all times.”
Before Saunders was making college defensive coordinators sweat, the tall teenager was a budding hoopster in his hometown of Bimini in the Bahamas. As a junior in high school, Saunders and his family moved to Houston, Texas. It didn’t take long for his high school coaches and the Texas football culture to get the athletic big man to try out for American football.
Saunders on learning to play football in the 11th grade:
“It was difficult at first to catch on to the speed of the game and all the techniques. As time went on, I got more comfortable with it with the help of my high school coaches and teammates at Kinkaid in Houston.”
Despite some early adjustments, Saunders was a natural on the gridiron, quickly rising through the recruiting rankings in the competitive Texas high school football scene. The late bloomer ended his high school career ranked as a four-star recruit and the nation’s eighth best tight end according to 247sports.
At the same time, Saunders was still a highly sought-after basketball recruit, collecting offers from the Connecticut and Oklahoma basketball programs. Ultimately, Saunders chose football. The coveted tight end recruit received 14 offers from blue blood programs such as Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Arkansas before finally choosing the Florida State Seminoles.
“I chose Florida State University because it was a great program that helped me become a better player and a person. And it was closer to home (Bahamas).”
During his four years in Tallahassee, Saunders was part of Orange Bowl championship and ACC championship teams. Saunders benefitted from great coaching and sharing the locker room with future NFL superstars like Jalen Ramsey, Dalvin Cook, and Jameis Winston. Although his stats were not impressive – he caught 16 passes for 234 yards during his time as a Seminole – they were a reflection of Florida State’s run-heavy offense, where Saunders was used primarily for his blocking skills.
Looking to use his receiving skills more, Saunders transferred to Kansas University for his final season of college football:
“I decided to transfer for my final year of college to be used more in the passing game and not just blocking. The majority of the time at Florida State I was run blocking and I wanted to go to a school where I could show my talents in the passing game.”
During his one season as Kansas, Saunders was only able to play in three games because of injuries. He did however, score a touchdown and caught four passes for 32 yards. His stats, combine numbers, and massive frame did impress NFL scouts enough to receive rookie minicamp invites from the Cleveland Browns and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“The Browns try-out was a great experience. Even though I did not get signed, I will always cherish those few days of competing against the best football players in the world.”
After two years out of football, Saunders joined the Las Rozas Black Demons eager to continue playing the game he loves.
“Well, an opportunity came along to continue my playing career after two seasons off. I wanted to continue playing football while I am still young. Also, visiting Europe has always been a dream of mine. Spain is a beautiful and vibrant country and I love it. I look forward to visiting other countries as well.”
Since landing in Spain, Saunders has been a huge addition for the Black Demons. His receiving skills and physical blocking have helped his team reach the Spanish Bowl with an impressive 8-1 record. Saunders was a big part of the Black Demons historic regular season victory against the Badalona Dracs ending their 47-game win streak. This Saturday night Saunders and Black Demons are looking to beat the Dracs again this time for all the marbles in the Spanish Bowl.
Saunders on getting ready for the championship game:
“It’s another opportunity to help a hungry organization win a championship .”
Watch Saunders and the Las Rozas Black Demons this weekend as they take on the defending champion Badalona Dracs at 19:00 CET on AFI.TV