Chandler's Cross, England — Two young Englishmen greeted the Lions on their way to the practice field Wednesday.
The brothers, Jack and Joe Judge, simply drove up to the resort where the team is staying, hopped out of the car and asked some of the players for their autographs.
"We've had quite good success here meeting guys, and they're always happy to stop and sign and talk," said Joe, 23, adding he and his brother visit The Grove because teams regularly stay at the hotel when they play in London.
For the Lions, this was yet another stark contrast to their experience in the U.S. Tight end Eric Ebron actually thought the men might've been there as part of a reporter's ploy before he noted his admiration for Joe's Pawtucket Red Sox minor-league baseball shirt.
At the team's headquarters in Allen Park, fans would surely be asked to leave promptly if they arrived seeking autographs. Sometimes, fans have a chance to congregate in a part of the hotel where the team stays in Detroit or on the road, but one-on-one meetings typically would have to happen by chance.
The harmless Judges realized security at The Grove might kick them out at some point, but considering they live about 20 minutes away in Hertfordshire, the county in which the resort is located, it was well worth the trip. And considering NFL players are swarmed by fans at most organized events in London, this was a prime opportunity to actually talk to them.
"They're kind of a bit more relaxed," said Jack, 25.
Among the players they met Wednesday were quarterback Matthew Stafford, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, three of the Lions' biggest stars. Previously, they met Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and Philadelphia's Sam Bradford, the quarterback who spoke to them for about 20 minutes when he was with the Rams in 2012.
When the Dolphins were in London in Week 4, Jack said he met Dan Marino, "the holy grail" for him as a Miami fan. Joe, meanwhile, is a Patriots fan who was glad to bump into Darrelle Revis in Central London that week, even if the star cornerback is back with the Jets after helping New England win the last Super Bowl.
Although the Judges are from England, they've been NFL fans for the past 10 years after starting to watch the games on TV. Sky Sports, a local TV station, airs the league's games, though it can be an expensive package to see several games.
A "massive sports fan," Jack said he also cheers for the Texas Rangers while his brother likes the Boston Red Sox, hence the Pawtucket shirt. They spent two weeks stateside in May and saw the two teams play at Fenway Park, and they visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Baseball Hall of Fame, among other American sites.
Even though they've met several players over the past few years, the brothers are still enamored with the size of the NFL players.
"These guys are giants," Jack said.