The NFL made yet another significant commitment to the development of American Football in the U.K. on Tuesday, announcing the first ever international academy in London, designed to help aspiring young players increase their skills and knowledge of the game.
Based at Barnet and Southgate College in North London, less than 10 miles away from the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium that the league has invested over $12 million of their own money in, the NFL Academy will be open to student athletes aged 16-18 and will combine education with intensive football training.
Around 80 student athletes are expected to be recruited in the coming months, with the coaching staff overseen by Tony Allen, arguably the most successful coach in British American Football history and the former Director of International Player and Football Development for NFL Europe. He is also the father of former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Marvin Allen, a player allocated to them as part of an NFL initiative for international players in 2006 and 2008.
And the Pittsburgh connections with this new academy do not end with Allen either, with JuJu Smith-Schuster named as one of eight ambassadors to the school. A group of past and present players that includes Jerry Rice, Odell Beckham Jr. and Patrick Mahomes.
Some incredible names have pledged support as ambassadors to the @NFLUK #NFLAcademy— Will Gavin (@WillGav) May 7, 2019
These include - @OsiUmenyiora @obj @PatrickMahomes @JerryRice @TeamJuJu @JayTrain @EfeObadaUK @JasonBell33
In his role as an ambassador, Smith-Schuster has committed to visiting the college at least once a year and promoting the academy on social media. Calling the announcement the “most important” development for the sport in the U.K since the Jacksonville Jaguars committed to playing multiple regular season games in London, the NFL’s UK Managing Director, Alistair Kirkwood, also explained how Smith-Schuster’s mother was pivotal in getting her son on board with the idea.
MD of @NFLUK Alistair Kirwood tells us how they got @obj & @TeamJuJu on board thanks to their mums!— Will Gavin (@WillGav) May 7, 2019
The amazing list of ambassadors have all agreed to coming to the UK at least once a year and promote the academy on social media.@OsiUmenyiora, @PatrickMahomes, @JerryRice et al pic.twitter.com/ouVlVDVRGy
"Both are incredibly inspiring" - not @OBJ and @TeamJuJu, but their mums! @NFLUK MD Alistair Kirkwood on pitching the #NFLAcademy to Odell Beckham Jr and JuJu Smith-Schuster's mums before getting them onboard as ambassadors. pic.twitter.com/J3qL87GV3V— Will Gavin (@WillGav) May 7, 2019
British-born Super Bowl winner Jay Ajayi was among the names present at the launch, excited to be involved in a project he could only have dreamed of existing when he was a young player.
️ "It's just insane to think about an #NFLAcademy in the UK where kids can chase that dream, but also get an education"— Will Gavin (@WillGav) May 7, 2019
London's own Super Bowl champ @JayTrain on the significance of the new @NFLUK academy on the sport in this country pic.twitter.com/qBkzSJz7BZ
Students interested in joining the Academy can sign up for one of two tryouts set to be held in June, with call backs for a final trial earmarked for July. Those readers based in the U.K. who are interested in the academy can find out more information here, here and here.