Jermaine Eluemunor was born a few miles from Wembley in Chalk Farm and is an Arsenal fan. On Sunday, like 90,000 other Brits he will be making the pilgrimage to the hallowed turf for the NFL’s International Series game as the Jacksonville Jaguars host the Baltimore Ravens.
Unlike the other Brits in attendance, he’ll be putting on pads and helmet and could well make a fairy-tail return to his home turf.
Eluemunor is one of the Ravens’ offensive lineman and his journey to the NFL started at this very same stadium in 2007 when he flicked over the UK TV channels and caught the Miami Dolphins hosting the New York Giants. Fascinated by what he saw, he pushed for the chance to get stateside and progress a move from Rugby Football to the American variety.
With a journey through small schools and self-promotion, he caught the eye of the big colleges and in the end committed to UCLA, then flipped to Arkansas before finally agreeing to join Texas A&M. In his final year there he started 12 of 13 games before being drafted to the NFL in the fifth round.
On the 10th anniversary of the NFL having regular season games in London, Eluemunor could well be the poster boy for the success of the expansion.
“Playing at Wembley has always been a dream of mine… I never expected to be back in my rookie year… I grew up watching games in that stadium so to be able to say I played there is something I will remember for the rest of my life.”
“I remember watching a Chelsea-Manchester United game, the Champions League final, a couple of England games back when David Beckham, Michael Owen, Rio Ferdinand played and Wayne Rooney in his younger days.
“Being able to play on the same field as those players, who are huge sport icons, is definitely something I will remember… It will be an honour, I have so many memories of that field and there’s so much history.”
Eluemunor links to Wembley go back even further, his father used to be a security guard at the stadium. Local friends and family will be there on Sunday cheering him on and wearing his jersey number.
So far in his rookie year, he hasn’t managed to get on the field, although that could change this week and not just because he’s the hometown boy. Ravens lost starting lineman Marshal Yanda who suffered an ankle injury in Week 2 that put him on injured reserve.
“Now that Marshal is out we have to play for him, play like we were playing, dominate and physical.”
So could this be the fairy-tail ending on Jermaine’s journey? He certainly hopes he’ll inspire future generations to pick up the game.
“I feel like I’m meant to be a bridge,” Eluemunor said. “You don’t have to be from America or born in America to play in the NFL. You can be from any country around the world.”
“I want that 11 year old in the stands to be like, ‘Why can’t I be like him?’” he said. “Then come to find out 12 years later, he’s the next big thing because he saw what I did. There would be nothing sweeter than that.”