Frenchman Hopes To Buck Odds And Make Panthers Roster

He has a background in skiing and bobsledding, and didn't take up football until he was 17. Now, Philippe Gardent is trying to parlay his change of sports into an N-F-L career.

As the first European-born player to win the M-V-P honors in N-F-L Europa, the 28-year-old linebacker thinks he has a shot to make the Carolina Panthers and help popularize the sport in his native France.

Gardent played in some French football leagues, and after college he was signed to play in the N-F-L's European minor league. He spent five seasons with various teams, and in the offseason moonlighted with France's national bobsled team. He had a shot to make the Olympic team, but he passed it up for football.

In 2006, Gardent led N-F-L Europa with 70 tackles for the Cologne Centurions and shared defensive M-V-P honors. After a stint on the Washington Redskins' practice squad, Gardent returned to Europe this spring and was named to the All-N-F-L Europa defensive team.