If this were the opening of an NFL training camp in Foxboro, Philadelphia, the Meadowlands, or Landover, the sight would be familiar. Vans pulling up, huge muscle bound athletes pouring out, armed with overstuffed duffel bags filled with the tools of their trade. In many ways it was just like the start of any pro football training camp.
But this was in Beijing, China, and these were clearly not the normal faces of the NFL. These were Chinese football players. And for the first time ever, they were stepping into the world of professional football – on their home turf.
66 Chinese men, all drafted by the CAFL coaches on the evening of June 10, are taking their first steps towards pro football stardom here this week. Beginning with full physicals and medical testing by an expert team of US and Chinese physicians and trainers, all the players would get the nod to move on to conditioning drills and begin intensive workouts preparing for the kickoff of the first ever Chinese season on October 1 here in Beijing.
“All 66 drafted Chinese players reported on time, and in great shape” said Head of Football Operations, Darrick Branch. the former former University of Hawaii standout who is running the early camp as Head of Football Operations for the CAFL .
He is optimistic at this early stage: “the players have made great strides in their size and speed since we held our first tryout camps in May.”
Monday, the Chinese players rolled out of their beds in the upscale Beijing Double Tree Inn by Hilton hotel that is their home for the next 3 weeks at 5:00 am to start their pro careers with some vigorous weight training and testing at the league facility before moving to the CAFL’s practice fields for speed and agility tests, and the start of formal workouts.
Ed Wang, the former Virginia Tech and NFL standout offensive lineman, who is an executive with the CAFL, now finds himself coaching in this special pre-camp.
“The players are in great shape, and were very eager and excited in our first workouts. We wanted to get them in here for a week on their own, so we could give them individual attention before the US players arrive. This is their first time in true professional competition, and its a big step up. We wanted to give them as much individual instruction as possible.”
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the globe, at the home office of the CAFL’s parent company, AFL-Global, VP of League Operations Ken Bozarth pours over itineraries, government documents, and shipping orders as he gets ready to move upwards of 100 players, coaches, trainers, and staffers from the US to China in the next 6 days.
“I will be so happy when we all assemble, with our suitcases, equipment bags and get to down to the football!” said Bozarth.
In the days and weeks ahead, we will be taking you inside the camp to profile the players and people of China’s first pro football league, as the CAFL counts downs to the official kickoff of The Super Series on October 1 in Beijing.