Sagamihara City, Kanagawa is 6,400 miles from Ann Arbor.
However, that is where former Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner and receiver Jeremy Gallon will play this season. The duo signed a deal with the Nojima Sagamihara Rise of Japan’s semi-pro X-League. They will start their football career in Japan on August 28th.
The X-League has 18 teams that compete for the Japan X-Bowl.
“Yeah, that was a huge decision, because I still had a chance to play in Canada and the NFL,” Gardner said to The Japan Times, when asked if it took him some time to make up his mind to jump at the opportunity to play football in an Asian country. “But I thought it was kind of a great experience for me, because I’ve never actually been out of the country, out of the U.S. So I mean, why not get a chance to be a part of something special.”
Gallon said, “I have my family, I have a 1-year-old son that I love that I hated to leave to come here. But it was a decision that we made as a family. And just to play football again and to reconnect with Devin, and to have an experience to come here and build new friendships and learn new things about the culture here, I just feel like it would’ve been a crazy thing not to come here and experience that.”
Gallon was drafted in the seventh-round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots and Gardner went undrafted in the 2015 NFL Draft, but signed a contract with the Patriots as he attempted to convert from a quarterback to a wide receiver.
Michigan Stadium is the largest stadium in the United States and Japanese football is not very popular, which means it will be a much different atmosphere at Fujitsu Stadium Kawasaki for the two former Michigan athletes.
“Yeah, a 115,000- (person crowd) won’t happen here,” said Gardner. “(But) it’ll be the same for me because even at the Big House, you kind of block it out. External things don’t matter. The only time you notice that there are so many people there is (when) you score a touchdown. So that will be the only time that you actually see it.”
Along with Gardner and Gallon, Nojima Sagamihara picked up former Illinois defensive back Earnest Thomas III.
The Rise will start the 2016 season on August 28th against the Obic Seagulls. The Seagulls will have ex-UCLA quarterback Jerry Neuheisel under center this season.