Ex-Wolverines Gardner, Gallon give Michigan football fans enjoyment in Japan

first_img RELATED PHOTOS Nojima Sagamihara Rise quarterback Devin Gardner, a former University of Michigan player, rushes against the Asahi Beer Silver Star in Sunday’s game in Kawasaki. | KAZ NAGATSUKA KEYWORDS KAWASAKI – It’s become a trend in recent years for X League clubs to acquire American players, including many who played for prominent U.S. college programs.This influx of talent helps give the football-stadium crowds here a little more international flavor. Fans pose for a photo with former University of Michigan players Devin Gardner (98) and Jeremy Gallon (13) after Sunday’s game against the Asahi Beer Silver Star at Fujitsu Stadium Kawasaki. | KAZ NAGATSUKA X League, Nojima Sagamihara Rise, Asahi Beer Silver Star, University of Michigan, Devin Gardner, Jeremy Gallon, Aaron Brooks, Christy Brooks, Dan Joley IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5 Recently, the Nojima Sagamihara Rise signed a pair of former players from the University of Michigan, one of the most storied college football programs in America, in quarterback Devin Gardner and Jeremy Gallon this year. (The club also has two other Americans in second-year linebacker Art Laurel and first-year defensive back Earnest Thomas III on its roster).For the team’s game against the Asahi Beer Silver Star at Fujitsu Stadium Kawasaki on Sunday, some American faces were seen watching the ex-Wolverines play in live action.Aaron Brooks and his wife Christy, Michigan graduates who are stationed at Yokota Air Base, visited the stadium with their three young children to root for players from their alma mater for the first time. They looked excited to have the chance to see Gardner and Gallon play while enjoying their first football experience in Japan.“It made us feel a little bit (like we were) back in school again,” Aaron said. “And it’s fun to just see the game and see them play at a higher level. So it’s been fun.”Aaron is from New York, but Christy is a Michigan native. She said that her father, who went to the school as well, would take her to Wolverines games when she was a child.The family has only been in Japan for four months, but Christy said it felt good to be around football, a part of American culture that they are used to.“This is very familiar to us because we grew up with it,” she said with a smile. “So it’s neat to see, neat to be a part of American culture here.”Detroit native Dan Joley has come to “many” X League games and knows Japanese football a little bit better as he’s been here for about eight years working as a head coach for the Yokosuka Naval Base’s high school team.But he said that he was “very excited” to hear that the two former Wolverines joined the Japanese team and was happy for the young Americans to be able to interact with the new culture.“I think it’s a great opportunity for both of them, both (to) work on their skills,” Joley said of Gardner and Gallon. “Also for an opportunity to meet people of Japan, integrate themselves in this culture.”It was encouraging for Gardner and Gallon to have support from their compatriots as well.“I saw them before the game. They had the (Michigan) flag and stuff,” Gardner said after his team’s 29-26 loss. “That’s amazing to have the type of support. That’s pretty cool.“It makes you feel at home.”In Sunday’s game, Gardner had 299 yards passing, a pair of touchdowns and one interception, while Gallon racked up 133 yards receiving with a touchdown. Gardner and Gallon are leading the league in passing (1,111 yards) and receiving (431 yards), respectively, so far for the Rise, who have a 1-3 record.For most foreign-born residents in Japan, the existence of the X League, or Japanese football in general, has perhaps been a bit obscure. But now with a growing number of Americans playing for many teams, the league probably should be more proactive in advertising and promoting the game in order to draw more attention to it. (On Sunday, there appeared to be some Japanese donning Michigan caps and shirts, too, so the league could also draw support from these NCAA football fans in Japan as well).Aaron and Christy, who got to know each other while living in the same college dormitory at Michigan, both said that they would like to return for another X League game.“Frankly, we are here because of Gallon and Gardner to see them play,” Aaron said. “But I know now after having been here once, we’ve been keeping tabs on the team going forward. Maybe we can make it down for another game again.”Christy said: “It would be a lot of fun (to come for another game). Definitely. We had a good time. Since we are here, we can’t go to football games (for the Wolverines). So this is a good option.” GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMESlast_img

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