The Unexpected Londoner at the Steelers

In amongst the recent hype about Brits being selected in the draft for the NFL ‘we’ (OK, let’s be frank, our editor) added the emotive term Britballers to the article Title.

Now some of the ‘Britball Nation’ doesn’t seem to think it counts unless you’ve actually played ball in Britain (and we don’t mean International Series games!).

So with an air of caution, sit up and listen as we tell you about another Londoner making strides in the NFL.

Wrong Ball Gromit

Back in 2010, Francis Kallon Jr. was a lifelong Londoner to whom football was a sport engaged almost entirely with the feet.  His Father had moved to Atlanta but took a while to get Francis interested in moving stateside.  When he did, it was wasn’t football that he was interested in but basketball, for which he was captain of his school team in the UK.

The school football coach Todd Wofford, whose initial reaction to Francis’ 6’6″, 265-pound frame was “Whoa” wanted him on his team. However. it took a lot of effort to get him to the game.

A Cunning Plan

Kallon eventually landed in a weight lifting class taught by Wofford and the coach hatched a plan.  The coach had Francis hand-deliver college recruiting letters to football players, in the hope that he would notice the opportunities the sport could provide.

With spring practice approaching, Wofford made a final plea. “Give me two weeks,” he said. “If you don’t like it, fine.”

“No, I don’t think so, It’s a rough game.”

Kallon sought permission from his father who viewed athletics as a distant second in importance to education.  “No, I don’t think so,” he told his son. “It’s a rough game.”

Kallon was persistent and eventually his father made him a deal: Get straight A’s, he could play. His son had received a B in the previous period, the elder Kallon admitted thinking, “He can’t make straight A’s”, he was wrong.

Greatest Recruiting Story Ever

“maybe the single greatest recruiting story I can remember in 20 years of doing this,”

Said Jamie Newberg, who writes about recruiting for ESPN. “It is surreal.”

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What’s surprising about this football story isn’t that Francis started playing football, but that before he’d even played a single snap, he’d sorted through 13 scholarship offers, all from colleges in major conferences!

His parents agreed that he would attend Georgia Tech due to the university’s academic reputation.

“What’s been surprising is how well he’s picked up the nuances of the game and its physicality,”

Said Scott Kennedy, director of scouting, for Scout.com.

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Kennedy said. “He’s in the trenches and he takes on blocks, reads the option, uses his hands and generally goes full speed on every play. His athleticism will get him noticed, but it’s his attitude that’s going to make him a lot of money one day.”

Happy Endings?

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Wind forward to this year and Francis Kallon has been noticed and has been picked up by the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent. Now a fit 295 pounds and really looks the part of a Steelers five-technique defensive end.

He didn’t get an invitation to the scouting combine but at the Georgia Tech pro day he ran a 4.8second 40-yard dash. Look out for this Londoner to make further inroads in the NFL.

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