Thom Hausler's love for football has taken him to an unexpected place - Ancona, Italy.

Thom Hausler's love for football has taken him to an unexpected place - Ancona, Italy.

Formerly a standout safety at Hilliard Davidson High School and Capital University, Hausler, 27, is in his first season playing for the Italia Football League's Ancona Dolphins.

He even got a chance recently to play alongside his twin brother, Kyle, who played in the defensive backfield with Thom in high school and college. The brothers graduated from Davidson in 2002 and Capital in 2006.

Kyle played in games April 9 and 17 for the Dolphins in place of wide receiver Derick Alexander, who was sidelined with a shoulder injury. Alexander is a 2003 Grove City graduate who was a teammate of the Hauslers at Capital.

Teams in the Italia Football League are allowed three active Americans on their rosters. The Hauslers contributed on offense, defense and special teams in the Dolphins' 3-1 start.

The Dolphins' next game is Saturday, April 30, against the Milano Rhinos.

"It is always a pleasure playing with Kyle," said Thom, who plays running back, wide receiver and safety and returns kickoffs and punts for the Dolphins. "He is a very gifted football player, but it's more important to me that he is here to hang out with me for a week in town and I can share the experience with him and he gets an opportunity to meet some of my teammates."

Not only have the Hauslers been able to play overseas, they have toured parts of Europe. During the team's recent bye week, the brothers and friends spent time in Switzerland.

Kyle said it was a great experience reuniting with his brother on the field for two games.

"Playing with Thom is great," Kyle said. "I really just came to watch him play a game. To be able to play on the field with him (was) just an added bonus. The caliber of play is improving. They obvioulsy haven't been playing as long as we have in America."

The Hauslers first were introduced to professional football in Europe in 2007 when they played for the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns in the German Football League.

Thom credits 2001 Westerville South graduate and another former teammate at Capital, Rocky Pentello, for providing him with the opportunity to play with the Dolphins.

Pentello is in his third season with Ancona. The city is located on Italy's eastern coast on the Adriatic Sea.

"Thom is the biggest reason we have had such a good start," Pentello said. "The guy is unbelievable. I don't think people realize how good he is on the offensive side of the ball. I actually begged (former head) coach (Jim) Collins to put him on offense in 2005 and 2006 at Capital. Obviously, his defensive abilities speak for themselves. Thom is the perfect fit for football overseas. Coaches like their Americans to (play) both ways and Thom has a nonstop motor that is great for Europe.

"Playing these past two games with Kyle and Thom has been great for me. They are both great players, but I think they are even better people. We have been friends since we got to Capital in 2002 and it has been an absolute joy for me."

Dolphins coach Gianluigi Luchena said the Hauslers have been welcomed additions.

"Kyle was a great help for us in these two games," Luchena said. "I love them. They are really good men and very good players. It is a pleasure to work with Thom, and during the last 10 days it was the same with Kyle. We have many young players, and it is very important for them to have guys like Thom and Kyle who are teaching them a lot about the right technique."

Thom, who is learning to speak Italian, said football in Europe is more of a club sport. He said the rules are similar to those of college football.

"It's a role reversal between soccer and football," he said. "Every night we practice we have to wait for the soccer team to finish up their practice before we take the field between 8 and 10 p.m. We practice Monday, Tuesday and Thursday with games on either Saturday or Sunday with a crowd of 100 if we are lucky."

Davidson coach Brian White credits the Hauslers for laying the groundwork for his program's success. The brothers helped lead the Wildcats to the program's first OCC title under White in 2001 and a Division I, Region 3 runner-up finish that season. Davidson went on to win Division I state titles in 2006 and 2009.

Thom is a defensive backs coach for Davidson in the fall and Kyle serves as a part-time assistant coach.

"These two guys are as special as they come," White said. "I've been coaching 21 years now. They're two of the top five kids that I've ever coached."

The Dolphins entered their bye last week in a four-way tie for second place in the 10-team league. The regular season ends June 4 and the top four teams qualify for the playoffs.

Thom said he will consider his options after the season. He may return to the U.S. and search for a full-time teaching position, or he could possibly play another season with the Dolphins. The team pays him 1,000 Euros a month, which equals about $1,454, plus free room and other benefits, he said.

"There are no other playing options for us," he said. "I am not here to advance my football career; I am here to soak in and experience a new culture, nothing more than that. It's merely a paid vacation for a couple of months and an opportunity to put on the pads again for recreational competition."