The Bears signed Forde, a native of Coral Gables Florida, in December 2003. The five-foot-11, 208 pounder originally entered the league as an undrafted free agent signed by the Colts in April 2003. For this young player, being part of NFL Europe is the opportunity of a lifetime to hone his football skills while experiencing another culture. Andre tells Bear Report readers about his recent experiences on and off the football field.
I just love being here in the Netherlands. I had traveled in this area years ago when I was 12 years old, but I'd forgotten how nice it is. The scenery is beautiful. The people are wonderful. Everybody is extremely kind.
They see us on the street and they come over wanting to help us out. They know that most of us don't speak any Dutch so we generally need all the help we can get! I guess you could say that my second language is Jamaican but that's useless here. Seriously, though, just about everyone in Holland speaks excellent English so there rarely is any problem with communication. If we're desperate, sign language works.
There was some culture shock the first few weeks that we were over here. We are living in Utrecht, a beautiful city outside of Amsterdam. You know right away that everything is so different, the time zone, the clothing, and the food. Now that I am accustomed to things, I love being here. It's fun to meet all the other players and to get to know guys I probably wouldn't have met otherwise.
What I have discovered is that football fans are the same no matter where you are. They're so enthusiastic and they definitely want to learn more about the game. I've been somewhat surprised however at the overall level of their knowledge. People at the games recognize good plays and they react to bad ones. It's not that different from playing in Chicago.
I've seen a few of my Bears teammates when we play them during the season. I saw Aaron Boone and Israel Idonije in April. They are on the Berlin team and they're going to be playing in the World Bowl championship game on June 12th.
The Admirals have been doing pretty well. We are currently third in our division. Our next game is against the Rhein Fire June 6.
For me, this has been a real help for my technique. The WR coach here, Willie Davis, has been active in professional football for over 10 years. He really knows how to help us improve. He's been working with me on foot placement and running routes. I feel much more confident in my abilities since I have had the opportunity to be coached by Willie.
I haven't been in contact recently with any of the guys on the team who are still in the States. I've read some things about the changes going on at Halas Hall and it all sounds good. It seems that things are moving in a positive direction.
I met Terry Shea when I was playing in college at Buffalo and he was coaching at Rutgers. He seems to be a very dynamic person who knows football inside and out. It should be fun to get back to training camp and find out s going on.
I feel confident in my ability to compete for position when I get home. Competition is part of this game and I'm ready for whatever comes. I've definitely improved. I think that I am a faster and a more knowledgeable player than I was before this experience. That should be a good fit for the new system.
Do I miss home? Sometimes, but I do hear from my family and friends back in Florida. They've been watching the Admirals play on TV so I always get feedback after the games. This has been such a positive thing for me that I am grateful for every day that I'm here. Before I go, I'd like to extend my blessings on everybody in Chicago and in Florida. I'll be seeing you soon.