By Rachel Terrill, Player Engagement Insider
The National Football League has long garnered international attention, but never as much as today. Thanks to NFL player ambassadors, the NFL continues to reach new fans around the world.
With NFL International offices in Canada and China, and regular season NFL games being played in the United Kingdom, the number of international NFL fans is on the rise. But thanks to NFL players who serve as great ambassadors of the game, even more NFL fans are being made around the world.
Dozens of NFL players and NFL Legends spend their off-seasons traveling for charitable initiatives across the globe. On those trips, many of them also help bring American football to people around the world that it has not yet reached.
This offseason, NFL Legend Dylan Gandy traveled to Uganda with Cincinnati Bengals linebackers coach Matt Burke, and Detroit Lions offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn. They taught football fundamentals and hosted a flag-football tournament for more than 100 orphans living at Restoration Gateway, an organization that provides support and housing for orphans as well as other community resources. “The kids and staff were so competitive,” said Gandy. “They celebrated a touchdown as if they’d just won the Super Bowl”. Restoration Gateway is located on the Nile River in northern Uganda, an area torn apart by the rebel group, the Lord’s Resistant Army (LRA). Gandy’s group is preparing for a follow-up trip next summer.
Last offseason, Indianapolis Colts quarterback, Matthew Hasselbeck, and his family, traveled to Malawi, Africa with Charity: Water a non-profit organization that helps provide clean and safe water to people in developing nations. While helping bring fresh water to remote villages, Hasselbeck and his children also played soccer with the residents and introduced them to the basics of American football. Hasselbeck’s wife, Sarah, explained, “While we were there, we saw the impact Charity: Water and their partners were making in the area. We visited villages that just received wells and we saw those that didn’t have clean water yet. We witnessed the community’s reaction as clean water shot from the ground for the first time”.
New York Jets offensive lineman Breno Giacomini and Cleveland Browns tight end Gary Barnidge started “American Football Without Barriers” (AFWB), an organization that aims to teach American football to children throughout the world.
For each of the last three years, Barnidge and Giacomini teamed up with other NFL friends to host American football clinics in new international locations, including China, Brazil, and Turkey.
The group most recently traveled to Istanbul, Turkey to help teach men, women, and children the fundamentals of American football. They taught clinics and played games. They met with officials in each country and wrote blogs about their experiences. NFL players in attendance included running back Marshawn Lynch and tight end Cooper Helfet of the Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams, center Alex Mack and outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo and safety Johnson Bademosi of the Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins tight end Jordan Cameron and New Orleans Saints fullback Erik Lorig. NFL legends Thomas Keiser and Will Sivitek also attended.
The organization’s official website states that the players “provide at-risk and disadvantaged youth with opportunities that promote health and education.”
NFL players including Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate and Seattle Seahawks offensive lineman Russell Okung joined the group on a previous trip to Brazil.
As NFL players and NFL legends continue help people live better lives, they also help spread the great game of football throughout the world.