What would you ask a professional football player about his NFL Games in London experience?
In my American expat adventures around London, I find that people on both sides of the pond want to know about life on the other side. When I scored the chance to have an exclusive interview with an NFL player, I set the questions around the London game experience and his perception of London.
Recently, I spent an entire day with the Jacksonville Jaguars as they prepare for the upcoming American football season. After being on the field watching a gruelling practice in the sun and 90 degree temperatures, I hit the locker room with other media members for a chance to talk to players.
Ok, I didn’t actually hit the locker room. The PR team for the Jacksonville Jaguars figuratively pushed me.
I’m not a sports journalist so my balls were a bit deflated when it came to approaching half dressed, sweaty men to ask them questions. But, I quickly learned it was the only way I would get direct access to this story. I couldn’t just stand around and wait for cool stuff to happen.
As #21 Toby Gerhart sat exhausted at his locker, I approached him to see if he had some time to talk to me about London. He was fully dressed and mixing up a protein drink. It was a safety zone for me. He wasn’t hard on my eyes either, if you know what I mean.
After he looked at my ‘I make champagne disappear. What’s your super power?’ shirt with a bit of amusement, he agreed to entertain my questions. Surely he wondered how the hell I got in the room, but he didn’t indicate these thoughts to me.
In my best hard-hitting tough blogger with a media pass pitch I said, ‘I’m a Daytona Beach, Florida girl living in and blogging about London. I want to know how you and your team are preparing for the Jacksonville Jaguars vs Buffalo Bills game on October 25th in London.’
With no hesitation, he said the team prepares hard for every game.
‘Damn. Now what?’ I thought. I was verbally sacked like a rookie quarterback.
For the next 15 minutes, we instead had a truly lovely chat about what NFL players do when they visit London.
Let me assure you Sunny friends, when the Jaguars cross the pond, their focus is ON. THE. GAME. Specifically, they want touchdowns and field goals in the End Zone.
Buuuut, when they do have a window of free time, this is what happens…
Playing in the NFL Games in London: Attractions
Toby said he really enjoyed taking his wife on The London Eye, seeing Buckingham Palace, and taking pictures in front of Big Ben (the monument not the Burgh boy, if you’re a confused Steeler fan). He also said last year they were playing around Remembrance Day so their trip to see the Tower was extraordinary because it was when it was surrounded by a sea of poppies.
I also learned from a team representative that quite a few players hit the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour since their first hotel was in Watford.
Playing in the NFL Games in London: Beer
Since pub crawls weren’t possible due to the nature of his visit and obvious game focus, Toby said he only saw a limited amount of pubs but thought they were really interesting.
He said a friend of his living in London took him to one but he couldn’t remember the name. He said he thought it was the oldest one in London. Hmmm. I didn’t tell him that ‘fact’ didn’t narrow it down much for my readers 😉 Ye oldest pub in London is kind of on every corner.
Playing in the NFL Games in London: Ball Boy
Toby said the British were pretty swift in spotting him as a professional American football player. However, when they asked what position he played, they generally had no idea what to do when he said ‘Running Back.’ He said that once he explained to them that his primary job is to catch the ball and run, they thought he was bloody brilliant. (My language translation there, not his.)
Playing in the NFL Games in London: Royal Flush
At Kensington Palace, Toby and his wife had a chance to snack at the royal residence but didn’t see anyone rocking a coat of arms that they could recognize. Apparently his wife and I (and most American girls) share a Kate obsession too! She had hoped to catch a glimpse of a royal family member while in town.
Playing in the NFL Games in London: Tea for Two
Toby didn’t join his wife for afternoon tea last year during his NFL trip. Obviously, she had more time than him to dine and live the London life. I absolutely offered to take the NFL wives to my favourite afternoon tea and food spots when they return this year and hope they take me up on the offer.
Playing in the NFL Games in London: Here Comes the Sun
Another highlight of Toby’s trip included walking across Abbey Road. He said he made room for a little ma-ma-magical mystery tour on his free day and hit the infamous Beatles zebra crossing. And yes, he made sure his mom watched a video of his walk in the road too.
Playing in the NFL Games in London: Eleanor Rugby?
Toby spoke very favourably about his trip to London and looks forward to this year’s game when he can return. The team will be there for a much shorter time than last year.
He hopes to attend a British football game (AKA soccer) but doesn’t know if the team’s schedule will permit it. Since the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars also owns the Fulham Football Club, I would guess getting tickets wouldn’t be a problem.
If he had the chance to hit a rugby game too, he said that would be great.
Playing in the NFL Games in London: Tackling the Tube
The team stayed outside of London for most of the 2014 trip. However, they stayed in Central London for a few days too. Toby loved walking around Hyde Park and didn’t throw up any flags when it came time to taking the Underground. He seemed to think this mode of transportation that most Londoners dread was ok actually. I imagine with his massive size, people probably didn’t get in his way too much during his journeys.
Stand on the right, pass on the left?
Playing in the NFL Games in London: Overtime
I chose not to ask this very congenial and Stanford smart NFL player for a selfie with me when we finished our chat. After all, I was a girl in a mens’ locker room. It didn’t seem professional or the right setting. So, I stuck to using the shots I took during the practice on the field for this blog feature.
What are your thoughts on that?
Upon leaving the NFL players’ locker room, I was whisked away to the Director of Football Logistics and Facility for a play by play rundown of how they plan for the NFL Games in London. I’ll have a separate post on that published for you soon, Sunny friends.
If you’d like to see the whole team in action before the Jacksonville Jaguars vs Buffalo Bills game in London, below are some highlights from the practice I attended…
Be sure if you are American and visiting London for the first time and want a little help on what to do and where to go that you give my Guide to London for Visitors a good look. Leave questions or comments below about an NFL player’s perspective on London and anything you need from me to prepare for a trip to my favourite town too!