Fifteen football players from the New England Patriots dynasty, past and present, were in Jerusalem on Friday to meet, coach and inspire young Israeli football players at the Kraft Family Sports Complex.
The players were in Israel to celebrate team owner Robert Kraft being awarded the Genesis Prize on Thursday night in the capital.
As the players – which included such notables as Super Bowl LIII MVP Julian Edelman, Drew Bledsoe, Vince Wilfork, Ty Law, Stephon Gilmore, Steven Gostkowski, Nate Ebner and Andre Tippett, as well as the Patriots’ six Lombardi trophies – were welcomed onto the field, the electric atmosphere among the 500 or so fans palpably changed. One could feel the excitement radiating off of the Israeli players and spectators.
Among the other dignitaries in attendence were Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, Deputy Mayor Elisha Peleg and President of Ayelet Arik Kaplan.
“Mr. Robert Kraft is one of the best friends Jerusalem has,” said Lion. “He has made incredible contributions to the city as a whole and to sports in our capital. Thank you for teaching all of us so much about love of Israel.”
The Patriots made their way down a line of some 100 Israel Football League members, high school and national team players, coaches and other guests, signing helmets, jerseys, balls and taking photos with each eager individual.The Jerusalem Post
was able to speak with a couple of the NFL stars on the field. When asked how Israel made Edelman feel, he said, “You know a lot of people obviously know my support for Israel and the Jewish people, to come here and feel the same kind of support is unbelievable.”
This was Edelman’s second time in the Holy Land, but for many of the other players this was a first-time experience.
When asked what his favorite part of the trip was, Ebner – a Jewish rugby Olympian, special teamer and safety – said, “I was raised Jewish, so just for me to come here has been phenomenal… it’s been a great experience, not just for me to come here spiritually and being raised Jewish, but just with Mr. Kraft and this whole organization.”
Most of the players were more than willing to talk to any person who was bold enough to say hello. The entire crowd -– kids and adults alike – were somewhat starstruck, taking as many photos and striking up conversation with as many players as they could.
“I love the sport of football, because it has the power to bring people together and instill in them the concept of team,” said Kraft. “It gives me so much nachas (pride) to see all these young Israelis so excited to play this game that we love.”
The overall takeaway from Friday’s event was the image of the Israeli players clicking away on their phones with friends and family telling them how awesome the players were and how this was a day they would always remember.
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