By Hannah Cohen
Seven years after the Drake University football program’s journey to Africa, the program played yet another first game of American college football outside of the United States. This time, a summer trip to another continent: Asia.
Over the course of two weeks, 67 members of this year’s team went on a trip to Beijing, which included visiting historical landmarks such as Tiananmen Square, an 8-hour hike at the Great Wall along with seeing the U.S. Embassy.
More significant than these destinations according to fifth-year linebacker Kieran Severa, were the people they met and bonded with even after they defeated the Chinese All-Star Team, the Shanghai Titans.
“Usually after you beat a team you are worried about how shaking hands is going to go after the game,” Severa said. “They wanted to be friends with us, so we hung out after the game it was great. They were really excited to learn [and play football with us].”
According to head coach Rick Fox, the growth of American football has recently boomed in China. In just seven years, it grew from three kids playing in Beijing to 20,000 and of the 250 they encountered, the enthusiastic attitudes from both sides were “incredible.” This was one of Fox’s cherished aspects of the experience.
“We don’t want to just go take a fun trip,” Fox said. “We want to take a trip that’s going to impact people’s lives, both ours and the people we see.”
For Severa, the most memorable part of the trip was the people. He bonded with whoever he met, including kids from the 250-member Beijing clinic held by the team and complete strangers in a ping pong park.
“I spoke very little Chinese and they spoke very little English, but we played and competed like old friends which was amazing,” Severa said.
Drake’s team not only bonded with the Chinese community but also found themselves closer as a team. Fifth-year senior tight end Cole Neary, said being able to go out of the country in general is an unforgettable experience and having the opportunity to do that with more than half of his teammates was unforgettable.
“It was a great opportunity for our team to become closer over the summer and build better relationships and a sense of trust this fall,” Neary said.
The team will demonstrate how they have come together in their first homestand Saturday Sept. 1 versus the William Jewell College Cardinals. Fox said the team has a lot to be honored of going into the season.
“I was [very proud] of our players,” Fox said. “How well they represented the United States, how they represented Iowa, Des Moines and specifically Drake. They really handled themselves well and conducted themselves in a way that makes us [coaches] proud and should make Drake proud.”