During the Colts' preseason game against the Detroit Lions on Saturday, German safety Marcel Dabo played on defense in a football game for the first time since 2021, when he starred as a defensive back European League of Football's Stuttgart Surge.
Dabo, who joined the Colts as part of the NFL's International Pathway Program earlier this year, described his experience playing 33 snaps at safety against the Lions as "crazy," adding: "You can't compare it to football in Europe."
"It's like, if you don't make the tackle, they guy's gone," Dabo said. "It's definitely an awesome feeling."
Dabo recorded three tackles and was targeted in coverage once. He played one special teams snap in the Colts' Week 1 preseason game against the Bills, so Saturday was his first extended action as part of an NFL defense.
"I just feel so blessed because it's such a long way from Germany," Dabo said. "And as an international player, you have so much responsibility for the international community because we want to grow the sport internationally."
Dabo said one of his goals is to help push "American football" to just be known as "football" on the soccer ("football") crazed continent of Europe. He wants to show other kids in Germany that they can make it playing football – the kind on the gridiron, not the pitch.
But Dabo knows he has a ton of work to do behind the scenes with the Colts to reach that goal. The Colts, though, have had their eye on athletic Dabo for a while – he ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash and recorded a 39-inch vertical at the NFL's international scouting combine in London last year.
And Dabo has a tremendous opportunity ahead of him: He's eligible for the NFL's international player practice squad exemption this year, which would allow the Colts to carry him as an extra player on their practice squad (he could also be elevated to the active roster as well). When he returns to practice at Grand Park next week, he'll do so having gained valuable experience in an NFL game.
"Literally every day, every practice is a game to me," Dabo said. "You can't compare it to football in Europe — every day there's so much pressure that goes with American football because what people see on TV is just a game, but what really happens behind the scenes — that's really football.
"... You have to approach every rep as if it were your last. Because every rep could be your last."