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lucky Elephants carrying in the championship #23 Chris Conte Womens Jersey trophy, hot tubs in the end zone, gallons of beer. Even 10 years after it ceased operations, the NFL Europe still brings a smile to the faces of those who left their mark on the league. What started in 1991 as the World League of American Football -- a plan hatched by two NFL commissioners and a handful of owners and executives -- would become the NFL Europe and, in its final season, NFL Europa. The developmental league was a springboard for some of the best performers to step foot on NFL fields. Among its alumni were three Super Bowl quarterbacks -- Hall of Famer Jason Kidd #5 Authentic jersey Kurt Warner, Brad Johnson and Jake Delhomme; and two special-teamers on the NFL All-Decade team of the 2000s -- kicker Adam Vinatieri and punt returner Dante Hall. Although the league generated talent for NFL teams, which had the opportunity to allocate players in need of seasoning, ultimately it did not yield the revenues owners wanted. But until its final game on June 23, 2007, the NFL Europe was a fun, wacky, wild experiment remembered fondly by those along for the ride.By the late-1980s, the NFL had supplanted baseball as America's pastime, and there already had been efforts to expand the game internationally. When the league began its American Bowl initiative in 1986, NFL and AFL teams had by then played in more than a dozen international games. The American Bowl solidified the NFL's interest in broadening its market, and Wembley Stadium in London, the Tokyo Dome in Japan and Olympic Stadium in Montreal soon played host to massive crowds for preseason NFL games. It was in that environment that the World League of American Football was born, the brainchild of outgoing NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, incoming commissioner Paul Tagliabue, former Dallas Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm and a group of like-minded owners and executives that included Kansas City's Lamar Hunt, Minnesota's Mike Lynn and San Francisco's Bill Walsh. In 1989, league owners voted to form the developmental league and set a goal for its debut of 1991, with three European teams -- the London Monarchs, Frankfurt Galaxy and Barcelona Dragons -- six in the United States and one in Canada. Former NFL quarterback-turned-lawyer Oliver Luck was named general manager of the Galaxy at the age of 30. Andrew Brandt of the Dragons was an even-younger 30, the youngest general manager Roger Clemens #21 Womens jersey
in professional sports at the time. Billy Hicks, a former Cowboys executive, was named GM of the Monarchs. They would be charged with essentially creating franchises from scratch. Oliver Luck (Frankfurt's first GM; later helped launch the Rhein Fire and became league president from 1995-99; now a high-ranking NCAA executive): "In December of 1990, I get a phone call from Joe Bailey, one of the lieutenants of Tex Schramm of the Cowboys. Tex was deputized to figure it out, and Joe called and said my slot was going to be as GM of the Frankfurt franchise. I'll never forget: Joe called up and said, 'I understand you were born in Germany?' And I said, 'No I was born in Cleveland, but my mother's German.' Joe said, 'You married a German girl?' 'Nope. But I speak the language, been over there a lot.' They got the facts wrong but the direction right." Andrew Brandt (Barcelona's first GM and later a vice president for the Green Bay Packers; former ESPN sports business analyst who remains in sports media and is a lecturer at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania): "I was an agent representing NFL and NBA players for ProServ, working under David Falk. I negotiated a contract for Chris Doleman with Vikings GM/owner Mike Lynn, who was quite a character. He looked me up and down after we finished the contract, took a long puff on his ubiquitous cigarette, and said, 'Do you speak Barcelonan?' I thought it a curious question and responded, 'Is that Spanish?' He said it was. I later found out it wasn't. He then asked me to become the first general manager of the Barcelona Dragons, explaining that the NFL was introducing football around the globe and that this would be bigger than the NFL one day." Oliver Luck: "I can't emphasize how little had been done to prepare to launch a pro sports franchise. I first set foot in Germany in late-December, Christmastime, and they wired $50,000 over. There was no stadium deal, not one employee. No local staff, marketing, PR. Nor was there any football staff. It was a true truncated startup. Our first game was March 25. We had all of three months."
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