Prince Harry has learned to love football since moving to California, even if he prefers the British game of rugby he grew up with.
“Good evening, NFL. It’s an honor to be here tonight,” Harry, 39, gushed during his surprise appearance at the NFL Honors ceremony on Thursday, February 8. “I really love how you stole rugby from us and you made it your own. Instead of passing it backwards, passing it forward. Why not wear pads and a helmet? Of course, have an offense and a defense, that makes sense. And why not take a breather every 15 seconds?”
He continued, “And you know what, instead of a 10-month season, let’s just make it 18 weeks. Genius! All kidding aside, what you do off the field is truly remarkable. You are role models to millions in the way you carry yourself and the way you give back.”
The Duke of Sussex, dressed in a dapper black tux, was on hand at the awards ceremony to present the coveted Walter Payton Man of the Year Award to Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward.
“This final award, the highest honor, is all about serving your community,” Harry added, praising Heyward, 34, for “going above and beyond” to help others. “Please welcome the Walter Payton Man of the Year, Cam ‘The Man’ Heyward!”
Heyward, sporting a blue velvet blazer, then walked onto the stage and embraced Harry in a hug before beginning his speech.
“Oh man, Prince freaking Harry,” Heyward quipped in his acceptance speech. “Man, I’m just shocked! That’s Prince Harry.”
Harry subtly laughed off Heyward’s starstruck moment.
Harry’s unexpected NFL Honors appearance comes days after he returned to the United States after a quick visit to England.
Us Weekly confirmed on Tuesday, February 6, that Harry flew to London for a quick visit with father King Charles III shortly after learning of the monarch’s cancer diagnosis.
While Harry was photographed leaving the next day, it was reported that his wife, Meghan Markle, and their two children, Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet, did not make the trip.
Harry and Meghan, 42, have been estranged from his family for years, with things escalating in 2020 when they stepped back from their duties as senior royals and relocated to California. Harry and Meghan have seldom had contact with Charles, 75, and Harry’s brother, Prince William, since the move, only publicly reuniting at Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II’s respective state funerals and Charles’ coronation.
It is speculated that Charles’ health scare could help “build a bridge” between the father and sons.
“We often see in families, incidents like this bridge a gap,” royal expert Gareth Russell exclusively told Us Weekly earlier this month. “They build a bridge [between] formally estranged members of a family. Cancer is nothing to be taken lightly and maybe it puts into perspective quarrels and fights that you’ve had before.”