For the second consecutive offseason, Redskins cornerback Josh Norman made a trip overseas to spend time with the Paris Saint-Germain football club – meeting players, kicking around the ball (which he's already been doing on the first day of OTAs) and taking in the second to last game of their season.
He was, for all intents and purposes, enjoying his role as "ambassador" for the team, a distinction he was granted recently for his extreme devotion to the organization and his love for spreading the game back home.
Norman's introduction to PSG, the premiere soccer club in Paris, France, actually came at Bank of America Stadium as a member of the Carolina Panthers two years ago.
The team was in town doing an American tour and the Panthers sent a few of their players to the stadium to meet members of the team – superstars that included Zlatan Ibrahimovic (who has now moved on to Manchester United) and David Luiz. Normally, nobody but the team is allowed in the locker room in the moments prior to the game, but Norman was invited to share in the pregame meditation.
"It was really a big honor for me to go in there," he said before taking his most recent trip.
Later during the game he met with the club's President, who extended him an invite to come to Paris whenever he wanted. There he could attend practices and enjoy a game, an olive branch Norman couldn't believe was real.
"The head leaders just said you're our guy no matter what," Norman said. "This is your team, like it is ours, and you're a part of that. Not any guy can go out there. It's not open season. It's invite only."
Norman was initially nervous about traveling to Paris for the first time last offseason, but quickly fell in love. He toured around the touristy areas, including the Eiffel tower and The Louvre, before going to the team's practice fields and reconnecting with the players he had met previously.
"It's really cool because their culture is so fascinating to me," Norman said. "You see buildings over there and you don't realize how much older they are compared to here. We're babies compared to their side of the spectrum."
Norman said he was excited to attend this past weekend because his soccer skills had increased drastically since his first visit. His soccer love was on full display at last year's training camp when he brought a soccer ball out to practice, inviting teammates to take part in some post-practice juggling circles.
"A lot of people don't realize – now you get people into it," said Norman, embracing his ambassador title. "You just opened up the door for a lot more fans."
It's a way of bonding sure -- PSG has even sent him a personalized jersey -- but Norman said that his experience on the PSG practice field was even useful for his own American football skills.
"I get a rush because it actually works on my footwork for football, in my profession," he said. "Because what is your biggest asset as a cornerback? Your feet. Gotta be quick. Gotta be on your toes. Sharp turns, sharp angles all day. That's me, that's my house, that's how I build. So if they can help me benefit myself and my career, I'm all about it."
Norman witnessed a tie this weekend, but he'll get another chance to see his new "teammates" again when they come to Miami this July to train. As of this point, Norman plans to travel south and train with them, enhancing his footwork and agility and enjoying the camaraderie with a group of international players he had only previously known playing Fifa video games with his brother.
It's the thrill of their games that will keep enticing him to return to Paris, making him proud to keep sharing the sport with his teammates and his followers here and abroad.
"Being at the game, the crowd and how so developed it is, the unison of how they do things, the whole time, there's no dull moment," Norman said. "You're in a place where everybody's on pins and needles, and you're in a big game, oh my gosh, you blow a play…I think the excitement came when I actually was there, seeing it, being a part of that."