From Christian Wade to Jay Ajayi - How the UK is paving the way for overseas players into the NFL?
By Jack Koblitz
The rise of overseas athletes especially from the UK in the NFL, can be seen in relation to the influx of the Americans’ game transported to the global stage, specifically the United Kingdom.
London brought their first-ever game NFL International series game in 2007 between the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins. Fast forward 14 years and Wembley Stadium along with the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium host the NFL International Series for two games a year.
Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL saw the future & growth of the sport in the international series after the very first game outside the US when they first took the game to Mexico in 2005. Since the very first it has been transported on a global stage not just through their TV Coverage in the UK but, the game was first seen in the UK stadiums on that afternoon in 2007 between the Giants and Dolphins.
“Bristol Aztecs” - Image by @afc_photographic via Instagram
After their 30th edition of the NFL London series, what impact has the sport had on the UK athletes set up?
NFL coverage within the UK is rising as every year comes with different shows not just on Sky Sports but on BBC as well with their talk show that airs every week. How is the development of athletes advanced in recent years to get their hopes of an NFL destiny?
The NFL academy is one way that the UK has provided a route and an initiative by the NFL for creation of life-changing opportunities for the younger generation aspiring to have. The academy offers student athletes between the ages of 16-19 which not only are delivered an intense training NFL routine, but they are also given guidance by full-time professional coaches that provide the right balance with a life skills programme.
Athletes are provided with their facilities, kit & equipment that coming with the academy process while the programme develops their individual students, they are paving a pathway with future employment as well as the further education with potential to study and play NCAA college football in the US.
On a smaller scale the United Kingdom have given various routes to play a game once produced and franchised by the United States. The UK system has its own BUCS league that has seen its own advancements in the sport.
What are BUCS? How has it provided a stage for athletes to showcase their talents for American Football?
BUCS refers to everything that deals with the university-level of sport and the National Governing Body that is associated with it. BUCS has provided the stage for athletes to showcase their talents in the sport and the statistics show the exposure the sport has been given. In 2007 after the very first NFL game at Wembley the BUCS set up had just under 2,400 students and 42 teams with conversations regarding the development of the BUAFL (British University American Football League).
Fast forward 12 years into 2019 it was announced that the BUCS had doubled their numbers in terms of the students with 4,000+ students and 80+ teams. The growth of the sport in the UK is evident to see. There have been recent talks on a potential UK franchise in the NFL which promises an exciting future.
So how will the United Kingdom NFL system look like in 5-10 years’ time, will we see the next Tom Brady in the UK system?