For some, it a return to familiar ground.
Quarterback Andrew Luck spent part of his childhood in London.
“When I was living there, my dad was working for NFL Europe. When we were in London, the team in England was the London Monarchs. I remember William “Refrigerator” Perry coming over. We have a picture at our house of him and his wife and our family.”
For kicker Adam Vinatieri, it’s going back to where it all began. Vinatieri played his first season of professional football with the Amsterdam Admirals. He’s looking forward to being back in London and playing at Wembley Stadium.
“It’s a great stadium,” he says. “I’ve played in Aztec Stadium down in Mexico City and some of the other ones that are known for soccer. This will be a fun time to be over there in a different stadium and playing American football rather than European football.”
Punter Pat McAfee says that’s when he first came to know the legend of Adam Vinatieri.
“They were playing a game in Amsterdam and they were playing against another team that was from Europe. Their team drove down the field but they didn’t score a touchdown. And this little Italian guy jotted onto the field. Nobody knew who the hell he was, nobody had a clue. Jots on the field, bang…it goes through. ‘Who is that guy?’ They said, ‘Vin-at-ery.’ And I go, ‘Oh my gosh, this guy has a future.’ And that’s when I bought my jersey, that’s when I became a fan, and I’m sure he’s excited to get back to Europe and show them the legend he’s become.”
It’s one of the reasons McAfee plans to change his job title this week.
“They know Adam Vinatieri, so I’ll probably just say, ‘I hold balls for Adam Vinatieri.’”
That, and the fact that punter is one of many words that doesn’t exactly translate from English-English to American-English. (You can Google it if you’re curious.)
“Where you from? Deutschland. Ok – Germany. What do you play? Football. Ok – soccer. What are you, a punter? No. Our punter kicks the ball. There’s a lot of interesting translations,” says McAfee.
No matter what they call him, McAfee says he’s looking forward to meeting new fans.
“We’ve got a lot of military people in Europe who don’t get a chance to get to a lot of games. They get a chance to come to this. And also, meet some new fans across the pond, hopefully.”
Long snapper Matt Overton has never been to London and says he doesn’t really know what to expect.
“I don’t know who’s going to be cheering for who, so it’s going to be a cool new atmosphere,” he says. “Definitely excited to see how the fan base is. And if they’re anything like cheering for a soccer game, it’s going to be pretty wild.”
Defensive tackle T.Y. McGill knows he’ll have at least one big fan in London.
“I haven’t seen my godmother in a while and she’s actually going over as well,” he says. “She travels a lot. Before the season even started, she knew I was going to London and it was a wrap.”
Rookie safety T.J. Green says London will be a big trip for him.
“It’s not the first time I’ve been out of the country, but to be somewhere like London? I mean, I never thought I’d be going there. So, it’s going to be pretty cool.”
“A life changing experience?” I ask him.
“Yeah, that flight will be too,” he laughs. “I actually downloaded Tarzan last night to watch for a little bit. I’m probably going to sleep the rest of it and try to get caught up.”
For wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, going to London will be his first time out of the country.
“It should be fun. Especially just going over there and playing in front of the fans. I think that’s going to be the fun part,” he says.
Spending seven and a half hours on a plane is not the fun part. But, he’s got a game plan for that.
“Sleep and study some Jacksonville film and probably wake some guys up on the plane.”
And to the delight of most players, the Colts made an exception to the dress code this week, allowing them to travel in sweat suits instead of business attire.
“You’ve got to be comfortable,” says running back Frank Gore, who would travel in a sweat suit every week if it was up to him.
It’s a unique experience, to travel overseas, to play (American) football at Wembley Stadium, and to do it in front of international fans. But, as Luck says, it’s still just another game.
“At the end of the day it’s about a football game and it doesn’t matter where it’s played. We’re not going as tourists. I’m not going to see Big Ben or Buckingham Palace. We’re going to play a game against the Jaguars. At the end of the day, that’s what’s important for me.”
And what’s even more important for him and his teammates is to come home with a win.