Alex Adamo of Sweden is at The Oakland Raiders Napa Valley Training Complex participating in Training Camp 2009 as part of the Raiders' International Guest Coach program along with coaches from Austria, Spain, Mexico and Australia.
I can only think of one prior occasion where I was about to sit on a plane for 20 hours, and felt genuinely happy about it. It was when I was about to start school in the US back in 1998. This time I was going to The Oakland Raiders training camp in Napa, Cslif, 11 years later.
As I am dragging my slightly oversized suitcase through the hallways of the hotel in Napa late Thursday night, with my cardkey in the other hand, I have my first interaction with a Raider. You know the feeling when you have had time to over think what you are going to say, and the opportunity arrives when you are about to say what you have rehearsed in your head, and you get completely thrown off because the other guy speaks first. The player throws out a perfectly normal "What's up?" and I believe I responded with "Eh" or maybe it was "Ah" along with a shoulder shrug… All right Alex, way to play it cool!
As I get to my room I am greeted by an equally excited Aussie, his name is Mel. Even though Mel and I are about 20 years apart we have more in common than I could have possibly imagined. We share the same passion for football, and we both struggle in our respective countries with a sport that doesn`t generate the sort of interest it does in America. Both jet lagged out of our minds me and Mel spend the first night talking about football, and only football. To sum up how it feels to be here I quote Mel "It feels like you are a kid in a candy store."
The next morning I get to meet all the other international guests that are here, a great group of guys from Mexico, Spain, and Austria. All together we are six kids in this candy store. Watching my first practice was incredible. The speed, the strength, and the tempo was something I wasn´t used to from back home. I was trying to keep up with my note book, but the pace of the practice was so high I realized I had to concentrate on one specific drill at a time, or my notes would not be legible in the end. Another question popped in to my head, how could this team be under .500 last year?
After practice we all got introduced to Head Coach Tom Cable. He was very kind and helpful. He wished us welcome and made sure we could turn to him with questions if we had any. I thought to myself that I probably need to do a little bit of "question screening" by myself before hand, or this would be Coach Cables longest training camp of his life.
On Saturday after lunch we set off for Raider Nation Celebration at The Coliseum. I can tell you I have never seen five huge buses get police escort before, let alone been on one of them. But now I was and for some reason I felt right at home. Well, maybe not…
Driving in to the parking lot of the stadium we were greeted by hundreds of fans waving and cheering, and my eyes were bigger than regular sized dinner plates.
Walking out of the tunnel was even more surreal than the bus ride. Now I know why the Raider fans are known around the world and why the players love them. They were loud, all in silver and black, painted faces, and ready to get a first glimpse of the 2009 Raiders.
Standing on the sideline with the crowd in my back cheering on we got to watch a high tempo practice with a scrimmage. I stood close to the defensive backs the whole time and realized what the rest of the NFL all ready knows; do not throw the ball to Nnamdi Asomughas side of the field. He is every bit as incredible as people say he is.
After practice all the players walked around and signed autographs to the fans, and I wanted to stay on the field as long as I could just to soak it all in. It was an awesome experience and I hope and think both fans and players enjoyed it as much as I did.
I guess many of you have seen Eddie Murphy in "Coming to America"; well that is pretty much how you can imagine me, a slightly overly excited guy with a constant grin on my face.