Lions Sign 6-Foot-7 OL From Italy Who First Picked Up Football at Age 19

Dan Campbell

Getty Dan Campbell looks on during a Detroit Lions game.

The Detroit Lions are adding a unique prospect to their offensive line — a giant offensive lineman who grew up in Italy and didn’t even start playing football until he was 19.

The team announced on May 22 that they signed offensive lineman Max Pircher, a 6-foot-7 tackle who spent the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Rams as part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway program. The initiative encourages players from outside the United States to try making the jump to the NFL and creates special roster exemptions for those kept on practice squads.

After spending time with the Rams’ practice squad in 2022, Pircher will now compete for a spot on a strong Lions’ offensive line.

Max Pircher’s Unique Background

As American Football International reported, Pircher grew up in Italy and was a standout handball player before deciding to try his hand at American football. At age 19 he tried out for a noted Austrian team, the Swarco Raiders, and earned a spot on the team. He also played for the Italian National Team and Germany’s Hildesheim Invaders before entering the International Player Pathway program.

Pircher credited Swarco’s offensive line coach, Lee Rowland, with helping him develop into an NFL-caliber player.

“I went there to the rookie camps they are making every year to give everybody the possibility to play football at least in the second team,” Pircher told American Football International. “Lee Rowland came to me already after the second practice we had at the camp and gave me the possibility to work out with him.  He worked out with me every day and explained me the game”

Pircher earned a spot on the Rams’ practice squad last year and was given a reserve/future contract in January, but released in March.

Lions Offensive Line Seen as Top Strength

It could be a challenge for Pircher to find a spot on the 53-man roster in Detroit. The Lions’ offensive line is seen as one of the league’s best, last year paving the way for a 1,000-yard rusher in Jamaal Williams. As’s Kyle Meinke noted, the Lions did it all without their preseason starting five ever taking the field together at the same time.

“Halapoulivaati Vaitai was lost to a season-ending back injury just days before the opener, and subsequent injuries to guards Tommy Kraemer, Evan Brown and Jackson forced Detroit to dump its entire bench onto the field,” Meinke noted. “That includes promoting offensive tackle Dan Skipper to starting guard. Then Detroit ran all over Washington that day, and Skipper got a game ball.”

The Lions have continued to bolster their line this offseason, signing former first-round pick Germain Ifedi on May 23, the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

The Lions also snagged William & Mary tackle Colby Sorsdal in the fifth round of last month’s NFL Draft. Sorsdal is expected to make the transition to guard and told the Detroit News that he has been putting in work to learn the interior line.

“I love how fast it is, but everything happens so much faster when you’re at guard,” he said. “Things get on you really quickly and that’s one thing I need to adjust to. But I like to have something new to work on, I like challenging myself, and I feel like I’m doing that out there.”

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