How the NFL is offering a lifeline for teenagers in London
How the NFL is offering a lifeline for teenagers in London, For 80 students in London, the start of the new school year won’t feel as mundane as usual.
A new academy, overseen by the NFL, has recently opened its doors in the English capital, and pupils will arrive for their first day with a sense of dreamy excitement that comes with studying under the banner of the world’s most valuable sports league.
The NFL has long sought to gain global appeal by staging games in London, and this October Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium — the first custom-built NFL ground outside the US — will host its first fixtures.
But today, overseas growth is not only about unearthing new fans, but new players also.
“The biggest challenge was obviously the play book,” says the former winger, the third-highest try scorer in English Premiership history, referring to the manual that sets out the plays used by a team.
“Essentially, the game is the playbook. If you don’t know the playbook you can’t play. So for me that was the first thing I put all my energy and all my time into, making sure I know the playbook, know what I’m supposed to do when asked to do it.”
‘A surreal moment’
The learning curve was steep, but Wade has already managed to turn plenty of heads seven months into his NFL journey, which has included scoring a 65-yard touchdown on his first touch in the sport.
When he initially got the call from the Bills earlier this year, he was lost for words.
“I was at the moment when you don’t know if to laugh or cry,” he says. “At the time all I could do was smile. I had so much emotion inside of me.
“It was just a crazy moment, a surreal moment where if people only knew what I had been through to get to that point they would understand the sort of emotion I was feeling.”
There are just a handful of British athletes plying their trade in the NFL, but back home in the UK there are thousands more that dream of joining them.
Time will tell, but American football could be about to get more global.