From Wembley to St. Joe, the Story of an English Family's Passion for the Chiefs

The Blaker family has been rooting for the Chiefs from over 4,000 miles away for as long as they can remember

Dustin Colquitt has been doing this a while – 14 years, as a matter of fact – but as the Kansas City Chiefs' punter signed autographs following practice on this July morning, even he was caught by surprise.

"I heard this voice and was just like, 'Now, are you from St. Joe?' Colquitt recalled asking curiously. "I heard that accent and then we just started talking."

That voice belonged to Emma Blaker, and as Colquitt suspected, she wasn't from around here – or this hemisphere, for that matter.

In fact, Blaker and her family reside in Pateley Bridge, England - a small farming town nestled about four hours north of London – but the over 4,000 miles of distance is hardly a hindrance for this family of four when it comes to following their favorite football team.

And understandably enough, Colquitt needed to hear more.

"I started feeling bad for the other people that wanted his autograph," Emma said with a laugh. "He just wanted to talk to us."

The story begins with Emma's husband, Dennis, who grew up rooting for the Chiefs in nearby Lawson, Missouri. A career in the military meant leaving his hometown for a life spent living around the world, but wherever he went, he was sure to bring the Chiefs along with him.

And while it took a little while to get the rules down, it's something that Emma, who met Dennis while he was stationed in the United Kingdom, was quick to embrace.

"It's funny because when we lived in Colorado, we had season tickets at the Air Force Academy and about two thirds of the way through the season, I turned to Dennis and said, 'Are they changing ends every quarter? I'm just really lost,'" Emma recalled. "Obviously, in England, soccer is very different. We have rugby in England, as well, and I kept trying to relate the rules to a mix between soccer and rugby, and that's just not it at all."

It took a few games, but Emma began to pick things up over the two years that Dennis was stationed stateside, eventually leading to a trip to Arrowhead Stadium in the fall of 1996 before the couple moved to Germany. From then on, this wasn't just Dennis' childhood team – it was something his family would rally around.

"As we relocated to different areas, we were always rooting for the Chiefs," Emma said. "Then, when we had children, we raised them as big Chiefs fans, too."

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That wasn't always an easy task, with only certain games making it on television, but the Blaker's interest in football endured over the years.

"What was hard initially was just being able to watch the games," Dennis said. "There wasn't a lot of televised coverage over there back then, but it's gotten a lot better as the game has grown in Europe. I don't necessarily get to watch that many Chiefs' games specifically, but every Sunday, we get three televised games."

And when the Chiefs are on television, they certainly make the most of it.

"One thing that is really lovely is that we have a tradition in our house now that instead of having a traditional English Sunday dinner, we have things like fajitas and make it a really great American event," Emma explained. "It kind of brings our cultures together."

Those traditions grew over the two decades following Dennis and Emma's trip to Arrowhead, culminating in some big news heading into the 2015 season.

The Chiefs were coming to London.

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"When we heard that the Chiefs would be in one of the four [International Series] games, we registered online right away," Dennis said. "The first priority goes to people that had seats the year before, but you can be second in line if you purchase season tickets to all four games."

Here it was – an opportunity to watch the Chiefs play with their very own eyes as a family – and they didn't hesitate.

"We spent a fortune on season tickets just so that we could be sure that we would see the Chiefs," Emma said. "Getting those tickets – that was pressure. Getting tickets to Wembley is really, really hard because they sell out just like that. It's just luck of the draw, so we knew that the only way we could guarantee that we could go is if we bought the season tickets. I can remember getting up early and getting like three computers set up just so that I could get them."

Much to Emma's relief, her efforts secured tickets for the entire family. Though unbeknownst to them, their story would take another turn in the days leading up to the game.

"In the center of London, they block off an entire street each week that there's a game," Dennis explained. "There's a huge fan zone there, and we just happened to be walking along, popping into different stores, and I walked into one where I could see that they were setting up a table and it was roped off, so somebody was coming in – it turned out to be Will Shields."

A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and one of the best to ever suit up in the red and gold, Shields took the time to talk a little football with the Blakers before autographing a photo.

"We stood and chatted for quite a while until we figured that we were holding up the line too long," Dennis said. "It was just really cool."

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That sentiment continued through the weekend, as the family was on hand to witness the Chiefs' win over the Detroit Lions. From the trip to Arrowhead way back in 1996 to the team memorabilia now plastered throughout their son's room, it had all led up to this fall afternoon at Wembley Stadium.

This was real.

"We were just so happy to be there," Emma said. "It was such a proud moment with our red jerseys on."

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And it only intensified the family's love for Chiefs' football in the years that followed.

"I've talked to a bunch of kids in my class about football and over the last year they've gotten really into it," said Toby, one of the Blaker kids. "Every morning, we have a period before lessons start, and we'll just spend that talking about football, the Chiefs and how they're doing. My friends have known that I've been a Chiefs' fan for ages, but over the last year, they've been like, 'Oh, I didn't realize they were actually that good.'"

"During rec time at school, they'll play American football," Emma added. "And Toby will tell them that there's only one team that they need to be rooting for, and that's the Chiefs."

That passion – which has permeated throughout the family for as long as they can remember – recently began to manifest itself upon each trip back to the United States.

"About four years ago, we saw it on the news that training camp was going on and just thought, 'Shoot, let's go.' We went up and just spent the day up there," Dennis said. "Now, every year that we come back during the summer, if it lines up, we'll go to camp. Last year, we missed it by one day. This year, we hit it just right."

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Which brings us back to the impromptu meeting with Colquitt, and the authentic moment that soon followed.

"We were talking about where we're from and after signing my shirt, he asked if I wanted to sign his hat," Toby said laughingly. "I didn't really even write a signature, I just wrote my name."

Here was the Chiefs' most tenured player, and he was asking a fan from a world away for their autograph.

"I always have a bucket hat that I make fans sign, just because if I'm going to sign something for them, I want them to sign something, too," Colquitt said. "It gave us a chance to talk, and I just couldn't believe that they came this far to watch training camp. It just goes to show that if you're a diehard – if you're a part of that sea of red – you'll do it. It was really cool and just kind of added a whole new layer to the story."

It was a gesture that resonated with the rest of the family, who each had a chance to scribble their name on Colquitt's hat, as well.

"That was just amazing. I was so impressed with just how welcoming they were to the fans," Emma said. "With English sports at that high level, you just don't tend to get that. I think that the players are incredibly approachable, they weren't full of themselves and they had an amazing attitude towards the fans supporting them.

"It was about the fans, it wasn't about them. To me, that was just culturally incredibly different and really heart-warming."

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And to Colquitt, it was no coincidence that the family witnessed the turning point of the 2015 season. The Chiefs were 2-5 heading into that game in London, and following their victory in Wembley, didn't lose the rest of the way.

"I told them that they were bringing us luck this year," Colquitt said. "She even said that since they came over here, the weather has totally switched. It's really hot in London right now and it's cool here, so I told them at this point they've got to win us a Super Bowl."

As for the Blaker's, they're ready for that responsibility.

"We're hoping that we can be the lucky charm this season," Emma said. "We'll be watching from across the pond."

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