Chinese American football kicker Li Chaoran was more inspired by a nine-day training camp with NFL club the Oakland Raiders than he had anticipated.
"I thought nine days is a short time but it turned out so different than I expected," Li, a place kicker, said after the eight-day camp from August 4 to 12.
"I was closely living and playing with the professional players.
"Everything was so inspiring -- the club's professionalism, players' skills and teamwork.
"I found I had so much to learn and the nine days just passed by so quickly."
Though Li did not play for the three-time Super Bowl champion, the chance to attend practice, observe meetings, take part in a fan day and watch the team's preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals, was invaluable.
"I was able to take a close look at how the world's highest level teams played the sport, and also being instructed by coaches and players as how to improve my kicking skills," he said.
"I was able to make apparent progress in such a short time and the experiences will also definitely help a lot in the future."
A native of Qingdao, in east China's Shandong Province, Li attended Beijing Sports University, where as a central defender he helped the university win the National University Soccer Tournament in 2005.
Li emerged as a promising talent when the NFL held several kicking camps for prospective Chinese players last year in Beijing and Shanghai.
Li then became one of four Chinese kickers selected to take part in development league NFL Europa.
Li and Shen Yalei played for the Amsterdam Admirals while Ding Long and Gao Wei represented the Berlin Thunder.
All Europeans team players vie to ultimately play in the NFL.
"We think there is great potential for the NFL to build a significant fan base in China," NFL International senior vice president Mark Waller said.
"We look forward to exposing more and more Chinese athletes and fans to the excitement of our game."
An international feel to training camp is nothing new for the Raiders, who invite coaches from around the world to summer training camp.
"The Raiders organization has long been a leader in multicultural initiatives", Chief Executive Amy Trask said.
"We are honored and pleased to welcome Li to our 2007 training camp -- we recognize the appeal of the Raiders and the game of football in China."
Last summer, the Californian team welcomed Tang Haiyan, one of China's first flag football coaches, to Napa Valley.
After graduating from Beijing Sports University, Tang became a physical education teacher at Beijing Shoushi Middle School and coached Team China in the Flag Football World Championship earlier this month in New Orleans.
(China Daily August 24, 2007)