"If you had told me two years ago, that I would be here, playing professional football in Germany, I wouldn't have believed you." It's hard not to believe any young, American quarterback who suggests that NFL Europe was nothing more than a distraction from the bright, Friday-night lights of the regular NFL season. For Patrick Carey though, the NFL Europe was something he had seen on television as a youngster and, along with the help of some friends across the pond, his awareness of Europe's American football escapades turned into something quite special.
Carey arrived with a short, military-esque haircut, one that he laughed off when quizzed over. Along with his strong physique came a broad smile and a somewhat warming nature. As calm as he is in the pocket, he remains somewhat anxious about interviews but, having dealt with 300lbs defensive ends running at him, he settles into the conversation quicker than most.
The Cowboys had suffered at the hands of a merciless Schwaebisch Hall Unicorns (the defending German Bowl champions). Carey called for a response. "I'm still really optimistic but we've got to bounce back now and learn from our mistakes. We've got to start finding ways to finish off good drives and get into the endzone." He got one as the on-the-road Cowboys raised their game to beat the Saarland Hurricanes 19-13.
On-the-road victories deserve greater recognition in Europe. "One of the biggest differences between college ball back home and here is game day. You just don't get the same number of fans and the travelling does make things difficult. Raising awareness of the game, including knowledge of the rules, will get the sport a greater following in Europe." Carey is right but what he also knows, and is probably wary of saying, is that success also helps spread any sporting message. For the Cowboys the task is made even more difficult by the sporting success of their city. However, there are plenty of reasons to believe in both the team and their leader.
Carey hails from a "family of quarterbacks. My dad was a quarterback and so was my uncle. I always wanted to be one." Despite his best efforts, most notably a group trial with the Seattle Seahawks, Carey found himself playing football somewhere far beyond Pennsylvania. "I never thought of playing professional football in Germany but as a kid, watching NFL Europe on television, I was always aware of it. It is something special and I am really excited to have this opportunity."
It is this grounded sense that is endearing about Carey, both on and off the field. He is aware there is more to being successful than gym sessions and practice drills. There is an internal drive that is pushing him. "Living in this great city has certainly broadened my mind." It is really hard to emphasise the magnitude of the decisions this young, medicine graduate has made. He represents an increasing trend of young, educated, American sportsmen who fall short of the impressive heights of their chosen sport at home and chose to pursue their goals on a foreign field.
It is a brave step. Arriving in a foreign country, often a completely different world to some American states, is daunting for any individual. Combine that with expectation and pressure starts to mount. Carey and his teammates have seemingly relished the opportunity to flex their sporting skill though and the early signs this season suggest the Cowboys, as a collective, have found that finally started to fit the pieces together. Led by an excellent coaching staff, the Cowboys have become more than a conglomeration of eager Germans and experienced Americans. They are now, more than ever before, a team.
Like many opposing defensive linebackers this season have found, Carey has soon gone but left an imprint. Combined with defensive leader Ryan Newell (and new signing Bill Doody), there are leaders everywhere for the Cowboys and as much as their primary concern lies with leading their side to victory, they are inadvertently setting a precedent that will surely see American football continue its European growth.