LONDON — Ahead of the Broncos' game against the Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in London, they went out to support another group of Broncos: the Bury Broncos of Bury C of E Primary School, a team that plays in the U.K.'s NFL FLAG Football league.
On Wednesday morning, Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Atwater, Miles the Mascot and the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders ventured out into the English countryside to surprise the Bury Broncos during their scrimmage. Miles and the cheerleaders led warmup drills, while Atwater coached the team during their scrimmage and even drew up a few plays.
"We're so, so proud of you guys," Atwater said at the start of the event. 'Keep it up; we're going to have a lot of fun."
After a fun afternoon of showing off their football skills, the players received autographs from Miles and the cheerleaders, while Atwater presented the team with brand new flag-football equipment to use for their upcoming season.
While NFL FLAG is relatively new to the U.K., it is rapidly growing. NFL FLAG U.K.'s Head of Community and Grassroots Development Afia Law noted that the game has spread to districts throughout the U.K., with multiple divisions participating.
"We've had NFL FLAG in the U.K. for five years now," Law said during the event. "We're in 26 regions across the U.K., which means we've got 26 different parts of the country playing NFL FLAG. That's primarily at primary schools, so Years 5 and 6, and last year we piloted our secondary program. ... We also piloted our girls-only program; so we are a co-ed sport — we have just as many girls as boys playing — but we also have a girls pathway specifically for girls if they want to play as well."
The Bury Broncos are one of the best NFL FLAG teams in their region, as they represented their district in the NFL FLAG U.K. National Championship earlier this year. Bury C of E Primary School's games organizer Doug Finlayson noted that flag football is popular throughout the Huntingdonshire district, with more kids getting involved each year.
"In our area alone, Huntingdonshire, which is a small district of Cambridgeshire, we've got more and more schools involved every year," Finlayson said. "It's only going to grow. The good thing is, it's a growing sport, so the appetite is there."
Because they represent the Broncos in NFL FLAG, Law said that the players have become big fans of the NFL and the Broncos in particular. Even though the NFL is based in the United States, the NFL International Series allows the kids to interact with the team in their own country.
"It's really special for the kids," Law said. "Where we are today is a huge Broncos school, they're really invested in the Broncos. They love that team. So, it's so nice of them to have that touchpoint, rather than the team being all the way over in America, they can actually engage with the team when the games are here — watch it live or watch it on TV and then meet some of the alumni players, cheerleaders [and] mascots."
Finlayson added that spending even one afternoon with the Broncos could serve as inspiration for the team for years to come.
"We're lucky enough that we're able to represent the Broncos," Finlayson said. "And this is going to inspire them even more — the fact that there's Steve Atwater, there's cheerleaders, there's mascots, et cetera. They're going to absolutely love it, and hopefully they'll go be inspired, because we haven't started our NFL FLAG [season] this year."
When Denver takes the field on Sunday at Wembley Stadium, they will have a whole team of young Broncos from the U.K. cheering them on.
On Wednesday, Pro Football Hall of Fame safety Steve Atwater, Denver Broncos Cheerleaders and Miles the mascot visited Bury Church of England Primary School for an NFL UK Flag event with Bury's team, which is affiliated with the Broncos and won a regional championship over the summer.