The NFL as starting a significant new initiative in player development in the UK following the announcement that they are opening a new Academy to develop talent in the country as freetips.com reports.
The NFL and American football, in general, has always been a huge draw in the UK and this has only increased in recent years particularly with the introduction of the International Series which will this year see four games taking place in the UK. These games, which have now been going for more than ten years, have seen professional NFL regular season games taking place on British shores and they have always drawn sell-out crowds.
This has, in turn, lead to more interest in playing the game and certainly the number of teams which comprise the British American Football League has only grown in number of the previous years. The new NFL Academy UK, which will open in September 2019, is aimed at 16-18-year-olds and aims to provide both professional coaching and training with educational skills. The academy which will be based in Barnet and Southgate College in North London, and is supported by sports brand Nike could even see players given the opportunity to play at NCAA college level in the United States.
“The Academy is a first-of-its-kind initiative that will deliver against three key elements: education, character development and football,” Alistair Kirkwood, managing director of NFL UK told nfl.com. “The inspiration for the idea was our long-term partnership with Tottenham Hotspur. As well as playing games at the new stadium, we had a desire to create something meaningful for the community on a year-round basis.
“Also, we have seen from the success of players such as Efe Obada in our Player Pathway programme that with the right kind of ambition and approach, there is potential to achieve breakthrough results.”
The NFL UK’s development team will work alongside Barnet and Southgate College to develop the football programme Recruitment for the first class of 80 students is currently underway, and it is hoped that tryouts will take place over the following three months.
Some of the NFL’s biggest stars will support the programme and will be ambassadors for the sport, including visiting the students on a regular basis as mentors for the fledgeling talent. These stars include two of London’s own and Osi Umenyiora, two-time winner of the Superbowl and Jason Bell who provides coverage for the BBC on the NFL are part of the team.
Another big name draw is Odell Beckham Jr, the Cleveland Browns wide receiver and former NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes, who quarterbacks for the Kansas City Chiefs. Jay Ajayi the British running back will also form part of the team and defensive end for the Carolina Panthers Efe Obada will also feature heavily.
“Being from London and having spent time with so many young athletes there, I know how much the NFL Academy will mean to them,” Obada enthused “To have the chance to pursue American football while receiving an education and other life-changing skills is an awesome opportunity. The values that the sport teaches go beyond the field and can help you make more of your life. I am really excited to give the NFL Academy my support and help these young people achieve their dreams.”