By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – For many of the Detroit Lions, next season’s trip to London to play the Atlanta Falcons will be another business trip.
For linebacker Stephen Tulloch, it will be more. For many of the players and coaches, the 2014 venture across the pond will be their first. For Tulloch, going to London means returning to a place with both good memories and sad ones from his childhood.
His paternal grandparents, originally from Jamaica, lived in London when Tulloch was young. He visited once to see them and sight-see, and he went again at 14 for his grandmother’s funeral. Both his grandparents have now passed away, and in addition to preparing for the Lions-Falcons game the week the Lions get over there, he will take time to visit his grandparents’ graves.
Now 28 years old, Tulloch has not been to London in over a decade, but he still holds fond memories of the city.
“I had a chance to see Big Ben with the guys standing there with the little hats on their head, looking straight ahead, and I tried to make them blink, but they wouldn’t blink,” Tulloch said with a grin. “It was fun. I had a good time.”
Tulloch is good friends with longtime San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore. Just a few days earlier, Gore had called Tulloch and said he was in London. The team had flown from California to Tennessee to play the Titans on Sunday, and after the game the group left for England in preparation for this Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Needless to say, it was quite the commute.
“He talked about the trip, flying from San Francisco to Nashville, after the game flying to London and how draining it was,” Tulloch said. “But they have a little time off to be able to do what they want to do, no curfew during the week, so they have a little fun.”
His personal connections to the city aside, Tulloch said he thinks it is great that the NFL is having games in London.
“It’s good that the NFL has expanded out to London,” Tulloch said. “I know the fans will be excited about it. I know some fans will probably book their flights now, get their hotels set for now – a little cheaper if you book it ahead of time. It’s fun. I’m glad we were invited. It’s an honor to be invited to play in London amongst the European fans. Looking forward to that next year.”
Lions team president Tom Lewand said the team appreciates the opportunity of the game and expects significant support for the game.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that we’ll get some of our fans traveling,” Lewand said. “They’ve shown that they’ll travel a great distance, and we, based on what I understand from our friends at Ford Motor Company, who have extensive operations over there, we have quite a few fans across the pond as well, so we’ll get a chance for them to catch us up close.”
Lewand also mentioned that Wembley Stadium looks much better than it did when the Lions played there for a preseason game 20 years ago.
“There has been a tremendous amount of work done at Wembley and with the game logistics,” Lewand said. “It’s come a long way in 20 years. The most important thing is it’s a regular season game and not a preseason game like it was in 1993. The stadium has had millions of dollars of work – obviously they’ve had the Olympics in there since then – so the field itself and the facilities are in great shape.”
Were the Lions the home team of the game, they would be giving up a game in Detroit. Since the Lions will be the road team, however, they will still play the normal eight games at Ford Field.
Because of that, the Lions get the best of both worlds.
“Our fans deserve every home game that we can have at Ford Field,” Lewand said. “This gives us an opportunity to take some of our fans on the road and make some new fans and do so on an international stage.”