MORRIS — Former Morris football player Payton Voirik is sure to have one of the more interesting "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" stories in his college English class this fall.
That's because Voirik, who attends North Central College, spent a couple of weeks, along with his North Central College teammates, playing football in both Prague, Czechoslovakia and Berlin, Germany against local teams in each city.
It was part of Global Football's program to provide both a glimpse of American football to European countries and to provide American college students with the unique opportunity to visit historic European cities. According to globalfootball.com, the organization has been the largest exporter of American football since 1996 and has organized and produced games and events in 28 different countries on six continents.
Voitik, who began the school year at Valparaiso and transferred to North Central, said that the North Central team goes over once every three years, but that players must raise the funds themselves, so not everyone on the team is guaranteed the trip. Even with the short time frame, though, he and his parents - Dan and Tracie - were able to raise the funds and he was grateful for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"I don't think I will ever get a chance to go to Europe again, so I was glad I was able to go," he said. "We crammed a lot into a little bit of time, but it was definitely worth it."
He said that the team took off from Chicago on a Monday night and arrived in Berlin on Tuesday. After settling in, the team took a bicycle tour of Berlin on Wednesday before a walking tour of the city on Thursday.
"Being in Berlin was very interesting," he said. "We got to see where the Berlin wall was as well as part of the city that was destroyed in World War II."
On Friday, the team went to the Czech Republic and toured Dresden, where they saw a concentration camp that had been restored for tourist purposes.
"They told us that this one was a work camp," he said. "It wasn't an extermination camp, so there weren't any ovens or stuff like that. They actually had it made up so seem much nicer than you hear about, but it still make you think about the people that had to be there and it made you appreciate what you have now."
He said the team had practices every day as well, but that football was kind of secondary for most of the week. Near the end of the week, it got more serious and they participated in a walk-through on Saturday.
"We had three padded practices at school before we left, but we didn't hit much once we got to Europe," he said. "On Saturday, we went through a little game-planning."
The game was played on Sunday, and the local Prague team took full advantage of the fact that North Central hadn't played in a while. They drove down after the opening kickoff and kicked a field goal, then scored on a pick-six on North Central's opening drive to take a 10-0 lead over the Americans. North Central collected itself and took an 18-10 lead into halftime.
Voitik was on the squad as a defensive back, but saw most of his action on special teams, such as kickoff and punt returns. He also found another way to get on the field.
"We missed on all of our two-point conversions in the first half," Voitik said. "At halftime, our coach was mad and asked if anyone knew how to kick. I raised my hand and said I kicked some when I was a sophomore in high school, so when we scored in the second half, he sent me out there to kick an extra point. The ball was going straight, but they had a 6-foot-7 guy on the other side that jumped up and blocked it."
Voitik and North Central came away with a 32-16 win, as well as memories that will last a lifetime.