By John Oehser - Colts.com
Japanese NFL Fans Greet Colts on Arrival in Tokyo
TOKYO, Japan – The Colts have been one of the NFL’s most star-laden teams in the United States for the last several years.
On Wednesday evening, they learned something else:
Their star appeal crosses their country’s borders and goes far, far overseas, too.
The Colts, after leaving Indianapolis International Airport around 5 p.m. Tuesday, landed at Tokyo Narita Airport shortly after eight p.m. Tokyo time Wednesday. After passing through customs, the team arrived at the Tokyo Dome Hotel shortly after 10 p.m. Wednesday.
They were greeted at the airport and the hotel by locals doing pretty much what locals in the United State do when the Colts arrive:
They were seeking autographs.
They were pointing out superstars.
Basically, they were doing whatever they could to be close to the NFL experience.
“I was frankly a little surprised at the reception that time of night,” Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said shortly after the Colts arrived in Tokyo for the American Bowl, in which Indianapolis will play the Atlanta Falcons Saturday at the Tokyo Dome.
Japanese fans sought autographs, and they didn’t do so on a random basis. When Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne stopped to sign for fans at Narita Airport, fans ran to where he stood saying to each other, “It’s Reggie Wayne. It’s Reggie Wayne.”
A fan getting an autograph from wide receiver Brandon Stokley held a notebook of football cards featuring Colts players, including one of Stokley when he played for the Baltimore Ravens.
Colts running back Edgerrin James also drew a crowd of autograph hunters as he made his way through the Tokyo Dome Hotel lobby.
“A lot of people were in Colts gear, and they had pictures,” Dungy said. “A lot of the people who had pictures had ones that were taken just a day or two ago during training camp, so they’re up with it. But the arrival was good.
“I think it’s going to be a good week for us and I think we’re going to have a very, very enthusiastic audience.”
Dungy said he was bit surprised at the NFL knowledge of local fans.
“They knew the guys they were looking for,” Dungy said. “That was a little bit of a surprise for me.”
The flight from Indianapolis lasted about 12 hours, and went smoothly, Dungy said.
“The trip went well, and I’m not surprised after all the work that (Colts Director of Player Programs) Steve Champlin and everyone has put into it,” Dungy said. “It went very smoothly.
“It was a long flight, but I thought our guys handled it well.”
The Colts are scheduled to practice from 10:30 a.m. until noon Tokyo time Thursday and from 11:30 until 1 a.m. Friday.