BRADENTON -- Football is a distinctly American invention.
But much of what attracts young people in the U.S. to the game translates well into other cultures.
Ask 19-year-old linebacker Tomas Louda. The native of the Czech Republic was at IMG Academy on Friday for the International Federation of American Football's (IFAF) World Team Development Camp.
"I like hitting," Louda said. "Tackling, yeah. Sacking the quarterback. That's what I like."
Louda, a member of the Prague Lions, has played football for roughly three years and loves watching James Laurinaitis of the St. Louis Rams. But he's more of a college football fan and said his favorite teams are Florida State and Oklahoma.
Seventy-five players from 19 countries descended on IMG for training through Tuesday. Players from Australia, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Italy and Japan are in Bradenton showcasing football's broadening global appeal.
"We are looking for the best player at each position here," said World Team head coach Tuomas Heikkinen, who is from Finland. "We need to find out who is the best lineman on both sides of the ball, who is the best linebacker, the best running back. And we will work the final roster ... so the absolute best players are coming to the World Team this year. But more importantly than that is it's a gateway. So the big thing for us is to find out what kind of talent we have (with the younger players)."
An estimated four or five players will be selected to join the World Team, which is scheduled to take on the United States Under-19 National Team in early February in Austin, Texas.
Despite how young the sport is in many foreign places (anywhere from 40 years old to just a couple years old), there has already been success on the top stage.
Germany's Bjoern Werner is an IFAF alum. All he did this past college football season was lead Florida State to an ACC title and Orange Bowl victory while being named an first team All-American and ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
Estonia's Margus Hunt (Hawaii Bowl MVP with two sacks and two forced fumbles for SMU) and Germany's Markus Kuhn (played 10 games for the New York Giants after a career at N.C. State) also are IFAF alums.
The NFL's annual pilgrimage to London for a regular season contest has given Europeans the chance to witness professional American football in person. And the NFL's presence with a now-defunct European league started the trend of football generating buzz worldwide.
Of course, the Super Bowl's global television audience hasn't hurt, either.
Nonetheless, various countries have sported football leagues for several years, and the training camp setting is being used twofold this week.
Players are fighting for spots on the World Team's Under-19 squad to battle Team USA. Meanwhile, there are other players who are here to develop their talents in the hopes of making the World Team in the next few years.
Chile's Bryan Steinsapir hasn't played football for long. And his native land is one of just a couple South American countries that have sent players to Bradenton.
The continent is rich with soccer talent, so the pigskin isn't a top priority. Yet Steinsapir, a wide receiver and kicker, got into the sport by chance and started throwing a football around with his brother a few years ago.
That's when he got hooked.
"When we heard a league was starting in Chile, we went to try out," Steinsapir said. "Since then we've been playing. It was like three years ago."
On the other side of the world, Australia's Simon Whitehead is in his fifth year playing football. Hailing from Adelaide, Whitehead became ingrained with the gridiron by watching the Super Bowl with his dad and thought he'd try it after seeing some people playing one day. There's an array of sports like cricket and Australian Rules Football that fight for dominance Down Under. Even baseball has a professional league in Australia, yet Whitehead gravitated to football from lacrosse.
The 17-year-old quarterback said he's using this week as an experience. The hope is to make the World Team in the next couple years.
"I hope my mechanics get better, because they're pretty poor," Whitehead said. "Just the experience of playing with other people, and seeing what everyone else has like all the other countries has in terms of talent."