On Tuesday 150 young athletes from across the country competed in the final round of trials for a spot in the brand-new NFL Academy at Barnet and Southgate College in North London.
The trialists took part in a series of drills replicating those at the NFL Combine including the 40-yard dash, broad jump, vertical jump, and shuttle run.
The academy is the NFL’s latest expansion in the UK, which has long been rumoured to eventually culminate in a London-based team.
As the ballers, many of whom play for current BAFA National League programmes, were put through their paces by academy staff they were watched over by some of the NFL’s top talent including JuJu Smith-Schuster, Akiem Hicks, Mario Addison, and Johnathan Joseph.
Yet it was the International Player Pathway graduates that drew particular attention with Efe Obada, Alex Gray, Christian Wade and Christian Scotland-Williamson demonstrating to these youngsters that their dreams are possible.
“I just wanted to get involved because for me it’s like when I’m in the states I do camps for the kids and you come to Europe they want to learn American football, that’s exciting to me because I would love to teach them,” Smith-Schuster said.
“I started out at four, five years old so like our NFL Academy was pop warner, middle school, high school and going to college so we have that set. If they have that here, you know five to ten years later maybe at some point we don’t have NFL Academy we have those schools starting a program and that’s the goal. Hopefully one day they’ve got a London team and they trade me up here.
“As far as today I’ve seen a lot of potential. A guy today jumped 10ft 6in! You know he jumped further than me?! and you’ll be surprised that the combine nobody really knows the 40-yard dash, the vertical jump, the broad jump, the shuttle run and just being out there today it shows that there are a lot of guys out here that have potential.”
Tuesday’s showcase was the first time that Tottenham’s new purpose-built 62,000-seater NFL stadium has been used with the kids getting full access to the locker room and field before the professionals.
Barnet and Southgate College is one of the UK’s top sports colleges with academies for a range of sports including boxing, athletics, Tottenham Hotspurs boys and girls Football Academy and from September American Football will join that list.
The first NFL match at Spurs new ground will take place on October 6 when the Bears take on the Raiders, followed by the Panthers vs Buccaneers on October 13.