“Who If Not Us” Kyle Brandt and NFL360 show Ukrainian football on the war front

Who if not us via NFL360 & ULAF

In a new NFL360 documentary titled ‘Who If Not Us,’ NFL Network’s Kyle Brandt explores how American football players and families in Ukraine have been forced into a harsh new reality as a result of the ongoing Russian invasion.

The documentary, produced by Trent Cooper and Ryan Smith, and edited by John Orfanopoulos, introduces the current state of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, followed by an overview of Ukraine’s American Football League, ULAF (Ukraine League American Football).

“I wanted to do something to connect Americans with what was happening on the ground in Ukraine. Within a few days I was in contact with players in ULAF who were on the front lines. I messaged them to learn about their story, what life was like in Ukraine before the invasion, how they got their families to safety and what they have seen on the battlefield.”

“We thought Kyle Brandt would be the perfect correspondent for the project because of how similar he was to the ULAF players…dads who love football. We also wanted to show another side of Kyle’s personality. The soldiers were excited to engage because it was Kyle, someone they enjoy watching.” – NFL360 Producer Ryan Smith

Kyle Brandt of NFL Network’s marquee morning show ‘Good Morning Football’ is building a strong bond with the Ukrainian football players-turned-soldiers who are fighting on the front lines of this terrible war by exchanging videos back and forth with them.

From lighthearted videos chatting about the greatness of Tom Brady and the Buccaneers’ playoff hopes to tearful, heartbreaking descriptions of their fallen comrades and the destruction of their homeland, the raw and unfiltered messages between Brandt and the players/soldiers leave viewers with a roller coaster of strong emotions.

Worked 8 months on this. You won’t believe where this story goes.

It’s on @nflnetwork after this Steeler-Raiders game. Please take it in guys. You’ll be glad you did. pic.twitter.com/aLg4SzYFKM

— Kyle Brandt (@KyleBrandt) December 25, 2022

Throughout the documentary, images of the reality of war in Ukraine, showing bombed hospitals, first-person videos of gun battles, rockets being fired and mass graves, are masterfully interwoven with sounds and images of soldiers singing patriotic songs in their native languages.

Then he abruptly cuts back to the broad smiles of the soldiers as they recount their past glory days, adding intimate family videos of them playing with young sons and daughters, now far away from the battlefield.

“I had no idea we would find such inspiring, funny, family-oriented football guys. They all had their own unique personalities and we all clicked quickly. It seemed like a perfect match between them and Kyle.’

“The whole project has been hard emotionally for all of us, who have created a bond with these soldiers and wives. You feel a connection to them. Any pain they feel, you begin to feel. When they lose someone on the battlefield, when you see the pain they go through, it affects you in ways you would never imagine.” – NFL360 Producer Ryan Smith

The moving first-person videos of the Ukrainian soldiers show the horror, carnage and destruction of war, along with the daily struggles of sleeping on the cold ground and living on high alert in a gravel pit, all while fighting heroically. for their country. Viewers get a never-before-seen point of view from the front lines of the conflict.

Brandt’s primary ‘pen pal’ is ULAF president and Kyiv Patriots player Yurii Gundych. Gundych’s days of arranging the league’s games, practices and running routes seem far removed now as he explains why he chose to take up arms for his homeland against a massive Russian attack

“We are from sports, we don’t know how to make war, we have muscles and we have big, big hearts and we decide… who if not us’

Andrey Zaretsky, 32, a center for the Kiev Capitals and a former quality assurance engineer turned soldier, keeps his reasoning simple.

“We will defend our country, we will defend our families, and if it means dying, we will die”

Andrey Zaretsky with his wife and young daughter: (NFL360-Who If Not Us)

Tragically, several members of the Ukrainian football community have been killed by the war, from 19-year-old Oleksandr Akinin of the Zdolbuniv Eagles to Dymtro Serbin, a famous cardiologist known as the ‘Jerry Rice of Ukraine’, and sadly many more.

The project continues to show how the American football community in neighboring Poland has risen to the challenge and sheltered millions of Ukrainian refugees who have fled to the Polish border, often with their shattered lives in nothing more than a backpack.

American TJ Richardson, a former Millersville University (NCAA DII) safety and longtime player and coach in Ukraine, now with Poland’s Warsaw Mets, shares insight into how his team and others in Poland responded to the humanitarian crisis on their doorstep.

“For me, I thought ‘what can I do to help?’, so we got together and brainstormed. We said, ‘let’s send some guys to the border and pick people up wherever they’re going’.

They are lost and confused about what the situation is and where it is going. They also have no idea what the future looks like.

“In tragic times, football can open doors for people, so I thought let’s go to the refugee camps and shelters. Any child who wants to join cheerleading or football can join. Just to help them give them an outlet.”

Richardson and the Warsaw Mets promptly organized a charity game against cross-town rivals, the Warsaw Eagles, and encouraged Ukrainian refugees to join the teams as players, cheerleaders, or whatever role they wanted. The Mets, among others in Poland’s soccer community, helped arrange ongoing aid to and from the Ukrainian border, hosted families, brought supplies and did what they could to help those in need.

“We were able to raise some vital funds just in time for the winter. We also hosted some children from the orphanage for a children’s day where we introduced them to American football and gave them the opportunity to participate and be part of the community after months of staying in shelters.” – TJ Richardson

Brandt eventually meets the families of two of the Ukrainian players who have since fled to other parts of Europe.

The NFL pundit-turned-war activist then surprised them and brought them to the NFL’s first game in Munich, Germany, to watch Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Seattle Seahawks at Allianz Arena.

Of course, this trip is made with optimistic promises to bring their husbands and fathers at war to an NFL game at a later date. At the game, the families of the Ukrainian soldiers, along with TJ Richardson, were honored and given a roaring and heartfelt ovation from the crowd.

“The Munich tour was about the wives being able to honor the sacrifice their husbands made and give them a moment of joy, a break from the constant pain of separation and uncertainty. The daughters pointed at the players and shouted ‘daddy’. They are used to to see their fathers play out there’.

»Anna Gundych and Anastasiya Zaretsky were recognized during the break by the crowd of over 70,000 people. They were there to represent the entire ULAF, the players who sacrificed for Ukraine’s freedom. The applause from the crowd was so powerful and there were so many people coming up to the wives to say Slava Ukraini that they really felt embraced by the city of Munich.– NFL 360 Producer Ryan Smith

Members of the Ukrainian Army share their love of football in the Ukrainian League of American Football.

Today they were honored with their families for their bravery and service. 💙💛 pic.twitter.com/stVCJrfGo4

— NFL (@NFL) November 13, 2022

The documentary gives audiences a rare perspective on how the reality of these players, sons, fathers and brothers quickly turned from the brotherhood and family roles of the field to the harsh, ugly and often deadly realities of war. A war that still rages fiercely in the heart of winter.

Where is Brandt brand from?

According to ULAF Vice President Denis Polubinskyi, donations to the Ukraine Relief Fund can be sent to the George Pataki Center. See the article : Prosecutors are preparing a lawsuit saying a cheerleading coach sexually assaulted children for years.

With the help of the @NFL we were able to create the #FootballsForFreedom initiative that collected hundreds of American footballs from across the #USA which we directly donated along with tons of critical humanitarian aid to #Ukraine and #ULAF this week. @NFLFoundation pic.twitter.com/Rz0hmK2Dwf

— George E. Pataki (@GovernorPataki) December 6, 2022

The NFL360 documentary “Who If Not Us” airs for the second time on NFL Network today, December 27 at 8 EST and New Year’s Eve at 10 p.m. EST, it is available on NFL Network, NFL Plus, Peacock and all NFL streaming services (including NFL Gamepass), as well as YouTube.

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