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USS Blue Ridge Command Master Chief Anthony Knight presents Indianapolis Colts tight-end Ben Hartsock with a Blue Ridge Master Chief’s cover on the mess decks aboard the Blue Ridge. The Indianapolis Colts players and cheerleaders met with sailors to sign autographs aboard the 7th Fleet flagship in Yokosuka, Japan. The Colts were in Japan for Saturday’s Americal Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons at the Tokyo Dome.

USS Blue Ridge Command Master Chief Anthony Knight presents Indianapolis Colts tight-end Ben Hartsock with a Blue Ridge Master Chief’s cover on the mess decks aboard the Blue Ridge. The Indianapolis Colts players and cheerleaders met with sailors to sign autographs aboard the 7th Fleet flagship in Yokosuka, Japan. The Colts were in Japan for Saturday’s Americal Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons at the Tokyo Dome. (Tucker M. Yates / U.S. Navy)

USS Blue Ridge Command Master Chief Anthony Knight presents Indianapolis Colts tight-end Ben Hartsock with a Blue Ridge Master Chief’s cover on the mess decks aboard the Blue Ridge. The Indianapolis Colts players and cheerleaders met with sailors to sign autographs aboard the 7th Fleet flagship in Yokosuka, Japan. The Colts were in Japan for Saturday’s Americal Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons at the Tokyo Dome.

USS Blue Ridge Command Master Chief Anthony Knight presents Indianapolis Colts tight-end Ben Hartsock with a Blue Ridge Master Chief’s cover on the mess decks aboard the Blue Ridge. The Indianapolis Colts players and cheerleaders met with sailors to sign autographs aboard the 7th Fleet flagship in Yokosuka, Japan. The Colts were in Japan for Saturday’s Americal Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons at the Tokyo Dome. (Tucker M. Yates / U.S. Navy)

Colts head coach Tony Dungy signs an autograph for Petty Officer 2nd Class Shannanan Arney on the USS Blue Ridge on Friday.

Colts head coach Tony Dungy signs an autograph for Petty Officer 2nd Class Shannanan Arney on the USS Blue Ridge on Friday. (Juliana Gittler / S&S)

Colts fans Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Cogswell, left, and Seaman Travis Lasley display their bounty of autographs after meeting some of the players.

Colts fans Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Cogswell, left, and Seaman Travis Lasley display their bounty of autographs after meeting some of the players. (Juliana Gittler / S&S)

ABOARD THE USS BLUE RIDGE, Japan — A few players may have had to squeeze through the ship’s small corridors, but a visit from a dozen or so Indianapolis Colts players and two cheerleaders — along with coach Tony Dungy — made the day Friday for a lot of sailors.

“I was ecstatic,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Cogswell, an interior communications electrician and one of several die-hard Colts fans on ship. “I ran around and got everybody’s autograph. When I go home in December I’m going to see them play.”

Another Colts fan from nearby Indianapolis planned to spend his 26th birthday Saturday at the preseason NFL game in Tokyo between the Colts and the Atlanta Falcons, who visited troops at Camp Zama on Friday.

The Falcons defeated the Colts on Saturday 27-21.

“I had season tickets all growing up,” said the birthday boy, Seaman Travis Lasley. When he enlisted, Lasley recalled thinking: “I could do it to my mom, I could do it to my dad, I could even do it to my dog. But I didn’t know if I could [leave behind] the Colts. I’m a huge Colts fan.”

The visit was arranged by former naval officer Steve Champlin, a Naval Academy graduate and now the Colts’ director of player development. Vice Adm. Jonathan Greenert, 7th Fleet commander and a Naval Academy grad, sponsored the trip.

The entourage flew aboard in two helicopters and had a quick tour led by sailor-volunteers, including Petty Officer 2nd Class Joe Wyly, a religious programs specialist with the chaplain’s office.

“I volunteered because I wanted to meet the players personally,” he said. Wyly also bought tickets to Saturday’s game — his first game since arriving in Japan eight years ago.

“At least I don’t have to get up at 2-3 in the morning just to watch a game.”

Dungy and his players thanked the sailors for protecting America’s freedoms and signed footballs, banners, books and hats.

“You do something that is much more meaningful than what we do,” Dungy told the sailors.

“It’s good to know that you’re out here supporting us. When we’re back home playing, we’re supporting you.”

Even sailors who root for other teams appreciated the visit.

But the Colts fans may have had the best time.

“It’s amazing,” Lasley said. “I had to come all the way over here to meet them.”

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