American football made its debut at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Tuesday (July 2).150 teenagers took part in the NFL Academy: Stadium Showcase, the final tryout for selection in the first intake of the landmark NFL Academy, which will begin operations in September 2019.
The NFL Academy, the first of its kind outside of the US, will be based at Barnet and Southgate College and will give student athletes aged 16-18 the life-changing opportunity to combine education with life skills and intensive training in American football under full-time professional coaches. Students will not only be given pathways into employment and further education, but even the opportunity to play NCAA college football in the United States.
The try-outs marked the culmination of the London-based trials, and was the first-ever NFL event at the spectacular new stadium, which will host its first two NFL London games later this year. The trialists were put through a series of NFL Combine-style drills under the scrutiny of NFL Academy Head Coach Tony Allen and NFL UK Head of Player Development Will Bryce, and were the first to use the stadium’s NFL facilities including the dedicated NFL locker room.
The event was supported by former and current Barnet and Southgate sports students who worked as event organisers, timers and physios. Current Sports student Odane, a rugby player, got through to the final try-outs and is hoping to be one of the 80 students selected for the academy.
Also in attendance were NFL Academy ambassadors, including Carolina Panthers’ London-raised Efe Obada, UK born and former Rugby player now Pittsburgh Steelers Christian Scotland-Williamson, as well as superstar Juju Smith-Schuster, and two-time Super Bowl winner Osi Umenyiora and his BBC TV colleague Jason Bell.
Christian Scotland-Williamson (who also played Rugby for the Worcester Warriors) said:
“The NFL Academy is an amazing opportunity, it’s a chance I never had, a chance to go and learn a sport that isn’t native to the UK, as well as get an education and potentially position yourself to get a scholarship to an American University – it’s honestly a chance of a lifetime, a chance that not many people in the UK get”
Pictured here: Christian with NFL academy try outs
Efe Obada who grew up in foster care in south London enjoyed the day even having fun with the try outs who challenged him to an arm-wrestle. He said:
“Today is all about the kids and this opportunity – when I found American football it honestly changed my life”
Pictured here: Efe with NFL academy try outs
Odane Linton currently on a Level 2 Sports qualification at the College is hoping to switch over to American football said:
“Today has been spectacular, it’s been surreal to be in Tottenham stadium with legends from the NFL”
Pictured here: Odane Linton with a fellow Barnet and Southgate Sports student Katie
Head Coach Tony Allen said:
“Without the academics you won’t make it in the NFL, the College is working closely with the NCAA in the US and without the grades you will struggle – you will need to be a good student both on and off the field”
Pictured here: NFL academy Head coach Tony Allen preparing for the trials
Pictured here: Tottenham Hotspurs stadium and NFL locker rooms
Pictured here: NFL superstar Juju inspiring the students
Pictured here: American Football drills during the academy try outs