ENGLEWOOD, Colo.– For equipment intern Takeshi Hasegawa and coaching intern Keita Iizuka, they may be thousands of miles away from their homes in Japan, but they're right at home on the Broncos staff.
Football in Japan may not be as prominent as soccer and baseball, but it's gaining speed and Hasegawa and Iizuka want to help it gain popularity.
Iizuka has first-hand experience playing professional football. From 2008-09, Iizuka was a kicker for the Amarillo Dusters in arenafootball2. He was the first Japanese kicker in the league's history.
Now Iizuka is working with an array of position groups, giving him experience that is unmatched by others coaching in Japan. Currently he's working on Ph.D. in sports management and hopes to one day become a general manager in Japan.
"I've learned a bunch of stuff," Iizuka said. "No Japanese coaches are coming to America and getting this type of opportunity. I get to look around the practices and the meetings."
Hasegawa, a native of Yokohama, Japan, is on his second stint as an equipment intern with the Broncos after a stint in Denver in 2008. He came back to the Broncos to gain more experience as he hopes to introduce equipment departments to college and professional football leagues in Japan.
"I want to be a professional equipment manager in Japan," Hasegawa said. "Equipment managers are rare in Japan. So, I want to introduce equipment management in Japan."
Iizuka and Hasegawa only have a week left of their internship before they return to Japan, where they work together with a team in an American football league there.
Not only will they return with knowledge they learned from working with the Broncos, but also the experience of working with some of the biggest names in football.
The pair said that players like quarterback Peyton Manning and outside linebackers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware are considered very famous in the football community in Japan.
While Hasegawa and Iizuka said the other Broncos were famous in Japan, they were adamant that Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager John Elway is considered a legend. Elway and the Broncos helped sow some seeds for American football's development in Japan, playing two preseason games in 1990 and 1995 at the Tokyo Dome. By working with the Broncos, Hasegawa and Iizuka help close the circle — while aiding the continued development of the sport in their home nation.