Kathrin Platz, who died Saturday at the age of 46 after a brave battle against illness, will go down in NFL Europe League history for two milestones.
In 2005, she was named the general manager of the Hamburg Sea Devils for that team's inaugural season, making her the first female general manager in league history. And she became the last GM to be crowned as league champion when the Sea Devils won the final World Bowl, beating the Frankfurt Galaxy 37-28 in the spring of 2007.
But she will be remembered by those who worked with her for more than her place in the record books.
Alistair Kirkwood, managing director of NFLUK and former NFLEL vice president, described her as a "warm, inspirational, and dynamic leader, embodying the finest qualities of the NFL."
"Although she will rightly be referenced as the first female GM, she should be best recognized for skillfully building a front office from scratch as well as developing a tremendous rapport with coaches, players and fans that acted as the platform for the team's memorable World Bowl XV win," Kirkwood said.
Kicker Todd France, who played for the Sea Devils in 2005, said that "Kathrin was a great person who was always positive and friendly. She cared a lot about our organization and her hard work resulted in the team's overwhelming success."
Tight end Mike Pinkard, a key member of Hamburg's World Bowl-winning team from 2007, called Platz "a great leader and a true champion. She will be missed."
Born in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1965, Platz, joined the Sea Devils after establishing a career in marketing and communications with the Renn-Klubb in Frankfurt, where she served as general manager and was responsible for sponsorship acquisition. She had also worked for live communications agency KFP.
Returning to the city in which she had studied to help launch the Sea Devils, Platz galvanized the local sporting community, which set a first-season average attendance mark of 17,920 -- the highest a first-year team had achieved since the NFLEL's re-launch as an all-European venture in 1995. In the final season of the league, with Vince Martino having taken over from Jack Bicknell as head coach, the team went 7-3 during the regular season record to qualify for -- and subsequently win -- World Bowl XV.
A renowned horsewoman, Platz returned to the equestrian world for a brief time after the NFLEL ceased operations, then began working for the Hamburg Freezers ice hockey team. The Freezers are planning a tribute at their March 4 home game.
"Kathrin was a great inspiration for all of her former players, coaches, staff and front office members," said Thomas Bothstede, who served as public relations director for the Sea Devils and also worked alongside Platz with the Freezers. "Her passion, determination and leadership were instrumental in giving the city of Hamburg its first major championship title in almost 25 years.
"She accepted every challenge with her strong will and her big smile. It was not the fact that she was the first female GM in NFL history, but her care for others, her genuine happiness and her positive demeanor that made her so special. She will forever have a big place in our hearts and memories."