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The Canadian press

Thank you, WLAF! The player showed Super Bowls life in London

Dedrick Dodge has two Super Bowl rings – not bad for a man who worked at an Anheuser-Busch plant after his career in Florida. So how did it come about that Dodge was passed over by every NFL team on draft day and Brett Favre flashed to fourth and sixth places with a 32-second lead in the 1998 Super Bowl? His answer: the World League of American Football. Thirty years ago, Dodge joined the London monarchs in the inaugural season of the NFL-backed WLAF, which later became NFL Europe. The Monarchs defeated the Barcelona Dragons 21-0 in the first World Bowl – played in front of 61,108 fans at Wembley Stadium. Ahead of the 30th anniversary of the league’s first game next month, the Monarchs recently teamed up to zoom in to remember. “Once you win a championship, it’s forever. It doesn’t matter what level it is, ”said Dodge, now a 53-year-old middle school teacher of world history outside of Atlanta. Popular in Europe, the Spring League, which was unsuccessful on television in the US at the time, provided former college players and castoffs with an opportunity to impress NFL teams. After the 1991 World Bowl, Dodge signed with the Seattle Seahawks and later joined the San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers. He was a backup security guard but stayed with the teams as an energetic special team player. He won a ring when the 49ers defeated the Chargers 49-26 in the 1995 Super Bowl. Three years later, after Favre’s fourth pass was incomplete, John Elway knelt and the Broncos were champions, defeating the Green Bay Packers 31-24. “No amount of money can buy such moments that I’ve been lucky enough to partake in but you have to get the opportunity, “said Dodge. “Where did it come from? It came from the time I had the experience of playing for the Monarchs and that brought me back to the NFL.“ If not for London, I don’t know if I’ll ever get a shot back in get the NFL. “The league only lasted two seasons in its original form, with three teams in Europe, six in the US and one in Montreal. It returned as NFL Europe and lasted until 2007. The NFL had regular season games every year since 2007 in London, but moved last year’s international games back to American stadiums due to the coronavirus pandemic. Two games were scheduled at Wembley and two at Tottenham’s home stadium. The league plans to resume the international schedule this year. The NFL and Tottenham have a long-term agreement to host at least two regular season games, and the Premier League club’s new stadium has a retractable facility e A lawn with an artificial surface that can be used for American football. The world league had high hopes as early as 1991. When the Frankfurt galaxy was home to the monarchs at the season opener, a helicopter landed on the field and league president Mike Lynn came out to deliver the ball. Ultimately, there was a lack of quality. The TV sports caster Brent Musburger, who named the World Bowl for the American audience, said before the finale that he lacked star power. But the European teams – especially the monarchs – received strong support. The NFL had hosted preparatory games at Wembley in previous years. “It was a great reception from the English fans,” said Glen Schild, who oversaw the Monarchs’ statistics crew in 1991. “It was an exciting time.” Schild, who now runs a statistics firm that works with the NFL every season, noted the camaraderie among monarchs. “Living together in a foreign country meant for them that they were really close and strong and that showed when they played football,” he said. The players lived in a dorm in Bushey outside of London. Dodge’s teammates included former Maryland quarterback Stan Gelbaugh and Judd Garrett, whose brother Jason QB was for the league’s San Antonio Riders. Jason supported Troy Aikman and later became the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. British players included Victor Ebubedike and kicker Phil Alexander, who is now executive director of the Premier League club Crystal Palace. “We felt like celebrities,” said Dodge, who also coaches soccer. “You brought that soccer energy into the stadium. They sing the whole game, they sing the whole game and you can feel that energy. It really fed us. “For the World Bowl, the league was hoping to have a bigger audience than the first Super Bowl in 1967, but it fell short. It wasn’t reportedly the most exciting finale, but The Associated Press noted its “carnival vibe”. Tony Rice started for Barcelona in the second half, losing three points and leading the Dragons on their longest run, but Dodge stopped former Notre Dame QB 4-3 near the goal line. The players climbed the stairs to the Royal Box – although no royals were present – to receive the trophy from Lynn, the league’s president. Dodge’s last season was 1998 – two years before quarterback Tom Brady was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He moves for the “older man” in the Super Bowl when the Bucs host Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. He still has his Monarchs jersey on the wall. The super bowls weren’t bad either. “I owe everything to the experience I had in London,” said Dodge. “Big to London.” ___ More AP NFL: and Ken Maguire, The Associated Press