More than 40,000 fans wearing jerseys of all 32 NFL teams thronged one of the most famed locations in London, as football fans gathered to show their support for Sunday’s AFC East clash.
Those fans were treated to musical acts, performances by the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders, and appearances by some of the top players from both teams, including Darrelle Revis, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ndamukong Suh and Ryan Tannehill.
“The enthusiasm and excitement I see from the fans has been tremendous,” said Jets center Nick Mangold after he and his teammates received a warm welcome from the British fans. “We’re excited to be here and go out and play the game tomorrow.”
“I was so excited to arrive home when we touched down here yesterday,” said British-born running back Jay Ajayi, who was sporting an Arsenal soccer jersey under his No. 23 Miami Dolphins jersey. “When I lived here this fan support didn’t exist, and it’s amazing to see how much the game has grown and how the fans embrace teams when they come here.
Sunday’s game will be the first time that division rivals have played in one of the games at Wembley, and while there’s definitely a different atmosphere surrounding the international game, neither team had taken their eyes off the prize of a crucial Week 4 division win.
The Jets arrive with some measure of confidence despite having lost 24-17 to the Eagles in Week 3. The same cannot be said for a Miami team that is already facing speculation about the status of their coaching staff following back-to-back disappointing losses.
“It’s a huge game for us. We’re coming off two games in which we didn’t play up to our standards. It’s a division game, and we know we have to get a win,” said Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. “It’s great to play in front of these fans, though. And I know just how many Dolphins fans there are here in London, so we need them to get behind us.”
The loudest cheer was reserved for Hall of Fame Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, who spent time ahead of the 100th matchup between the Jets and Dolphins talking on stage with host Neil Reynolds about great matchups in the rivalry through the years, including his famous Fake Spike win in 1994.
The appearance on stage rounded out a hectic week for Marino, who spent time with British royalty, and visited the home of the Prime Minister, No. 10 Downing Street.
“I had an opportunity to walk with Prince Harry and the Wounded Warriors across Britain, which was an amazing experience,” said Marino. “We stopped in one town and the prince and I threw the ball around a bit. He’s actually fairly athletic, which surprised me a bit!”
“I believe we are getting better. I know the first three weeks have been tough, but I think tomorrow you’ll see the best of the Dolphins.”
With each international game comes talk about the NFL’s intentions in the UK, and increased speculation about the potential of a franchise in London. One of the 32 men that will one day determine that only had positive things to say about the chances of it happening.
“I think the fans here deserve a team,” said Jets owner Woody Johnson after surveying the fans that had gathered to see his team 24 hours before they set foot on the field at Wembley. “If you want a franchise enough, you’ll probably get it.”