Gridiron greatness becomes part of Germany experience at NFL extravaganza for soldiers
Stars and Stripes November 10, 2022
VILSECK, Germany — Soldiers at this Bavarian base got their football fix this week courtesy of an NFL-style skills challenge and some face time with two visiting league luminaries of earlier decades.
After the meeting with the retired pros, 100 soldiers divided into five-person teams competed Wednesday in the NFL Boot Camp, a test modeled on the combine, a showcase for collegiate players aspiring to be drafted by one of the league’s 32 franchises.
The competition consisted of a long throw, the broad jump, the 40-yard dash, the three-cone drill and a receiving gauntlet.
“I signed up with my friends just to have some fun and play some football,” said Staff Sgt. Nathen Gimlin. “It was a lot of fun even though my team didn’t perform as well as we thought we were going to.”
In addition to the skills camp, soldiers got to talk with 2005 MVP Shaun Alexander, a former Seattle Seahawks running back, and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers fullback Mike “A-train” Alstott.
Alexander said such events mean a lot to him because he has an older bother who served in the Army for 22 years.
He said it was great to be in Germany, adding that he remembers a phone call his brother made from the country during his time overseas.
“We wanted to give the military out here an experience they have never had before,” Alexander said.
The event was a prelude to Sunday’s matchup between the Buccaneers and Seahawks in the first-ever NFL game played in Germany.
“It was a great day for them to come out and enjoy some camaraderie,” said Michael Hurley, a USAA military affairs representative for Europe and New England. “They came out a little quiet, but boy were they pumped up by the end.”
Wednesday’s event was part of the NFL’s Salute to Service initiative in partnership with USAA.
Gimlin said it was cool to meet players he grew up watching. Soldiers took pictures with Alexander and Alstott and obtained autographs from them before interacting with the two former NFL standouts on the field.
The day wrapped up with a trophy ceremony for the top three finishers in the skills challenge as well as a raffle in which four lucky soldiers won tickets to Sunday’s game at Allianz Arena in Munich.