They are known as America’s Team, but NFL heavyweights Dallas Cowboys became Men United in London during the build-up to Sunday’s international series showdown with the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley.
Our intrepid reporter Gary Haines, usually found covering our soccer activity, was granted exclusive access to Wednesday’s training session at Allianz Park in North London. Gary also signed key players and broadcasters from across the pond to the ever-growing movement for men's health.
Gary Haines speaks to Jeremy Mincey, Defensive End for the Dallas Cowboys.
A growing game in the UK
Just last week a report produced by our partners Deloitte showed the two games played in Autumn 2013 contributed £32m to the London economy - with a suggested £102m boost if a London franchise plays eight home games in the city.
More than 166,000 fans have descended on Wembley in the last two months, with another 80,000-plus crowd expected at the weekend as the Cowboys v Jaguars clash completes a first annual trilogy.
The fitness of star quarterback Tony Romo dominated Head Coach Jason Garrett’s press conference on Wednesday morning, with Romo resting up in the team hotel.
Romo has a family link to prostate cancer, while former Cowboys linebacker Ken Hutcherson passed away in 2013 of prostate and bone cancer.
One of the first out to meet the media was Cowboys defensive end Jeremy Mincey, who played at Wembley for the Jaguars last season, and he hailed our efforts spreading the word within the NFL in the UK.
“We all need things like this,” he told us, after posing with a Men United shirt, and an exclusive charity scarf. “I’ve had a friend die of cancer so I take it real seriously.
“Once you take these pads and all this stuff off you have people who are dying and hurting and I think it’s good that guys like you are reaching out and doing the right thing to help.”
Mincey’s London experience is nothing compared to teammate Jack Crawford, the former Oakland Raider, who was born and raised in the capital.
His old City of London school is a stone’s throw away from our London Bridge office. He was in the same year as Daniel Radcliffe, best known for his portrayal of Harry Potter, before heading stateside in 2005, where he initially pursued a career in basketball.
Clutching his Men United jersey, the 26-year-old told us: “I wouldn’t say I’m a stranger to the city but at the same time, it's different coming back. It’s like two worlds coming together, as my family are trying to make so many plans to see me and stuff, and I’m really trying to focus on the match. At the same time I want to see family while I’m here.”
“That’s something that our schedule allows; I’ll take time to do it on Sunday night,” he added.
“This is an unbelievable opportunity for our team. If you are part of the Dallas Cowboys - if you are the players, coaches and staff members to come across to London and spend a few days and play football against the Jaguars at Wembley Stadium - it’s a great deal,” added Dallas Head Coach Garrett, who also hailed the health resource available to his staff.
“I’ll tell a story on some of our beat guys,” he smiled. “One of the questions this week has been a lot about Tony Romo and his health and a few of the guys keep asking me about the medicine here in London, questions like, ‘do they have medicine over there?’ ‘Do they have MRIs?’ I’m like, ‘this is where it all began. This is London, England!’
“So this is a pretty special place and the opportunity for us to be here this week is special for us.”
During an elongated day at the home of Saracens Rugby Club we got the chance to watch the training session, and caught up with Neil Reynolds, Sky Sports’ NFL host from Wembley on Sunday, as well as Babe Laufenberg, Sports Anchor for CBS television stable, KTVT.
Men United will be inside Wembley on Sunday for the third and final game of the International Series, and with next year’s three games also inked into the schedule there will be many more opportunities to get our message across to NFL fans in the UK - and beyond.
To join Jeremy Mincey and Jack Crawford in our Men United team, sign up here.