- Associated Press - Thursday, August 8, 2013

ANDERSON, IND. (AP) - Walk around Colts training camp, and it’s like taking a trip around the world.

“You were born in Japan, too?” offensive lineman Emmett Cleary asked receiver Rodrick Rumble after one recent practice.

“Yeah, man,” Rumble said as the two undrafted rookies walked into the locker room together.

Rumble didn’t last long. He was one of two players cut Thursday morning.

But there are nearly a dozen others around with international connections.

Linebacker Bjoern Werner, Indy’s top draft pick, first came to the U.S. as an exchange student from Germany, Kenya’s Daniel Adongo is trying to make the transition from rugby player to linebacker, right tackle Gosder Cherilus lived in Haiti until he was 12. Linebacker C.O. Prime is a Quebec native. Cleary was born in Tokyo and Rumble on an American military base in Yokosuka before moving to Washington state.

The parents of defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois and fullback Stanley Havili moved to the U.S. after living in Haiti and Tonga.

And then there are the world travelers. Andrew Luck spent part of his childhood living in London and Germany where his father, Oliver, worked, and linebacker Jerrell Freeman starred in the CFL before setting a Colts record with 203 tackles in 2012. Before becoming the best clutch kicker in NFL history, Adam Vinatieri was making field goals for Amsterdam in the World League of American Football, and defensive lineman Aubrayo Franklin took his first professional snaps in Frankfurt, Germany.

It makes for some interesting conversations on the Anderson University campus.

“I think in five years, you won’t be calling me when you have 30 players from Europe playing,” said Tommy Wiking, president of the International Federation of American Football. “That will be the norm.”

For a league that has trailed the NHL, NBA, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer in worldwide appeal, this season could be the breakthrough Wiking and others have waited for.

Players who were born or reared in Australia, England, Estonia, Ghana, Germany, Jamaica, Japan, Liberia and Tonga were among the 333 invitees to this year’s annual NFL scouting combine. That list included Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, Star Lotulelei and Werner _ all among the top 25 picks.

Werner, who was called The Berlin Wall and The Germanator at Florida State, is the first graduate from USA Football’s International Student Program to reach the NFL. With foreign players already closing the gap on the U.S. in this uniquely American sport, Wiking said Werner’s success is bound to add more athletes to the mix.

“His success is really important in Germany, getting the German kids to participate on the world team,” Wiking said. “It’s huge for recruitment in Germany.”

Cherilus and Jean Francois, whose parents lived in Haiti, have provided assistance to the poor island country as it continues to recover from the deadly 2010 earthquake. Adongo is still getting acclimated to a helmet and pads, and Havili, who the Colts got in a trade with Philadelphia, just wants to make his parents proud.

Story Continues →