The NFL made its debut at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium today (July 2) when 150 teenagers took part in 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 hotly-contested trials marked the first-ever NFL event at the spectacular new stadium, which will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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.
Also scouting the talent were NFL Academy ambassadors, including Pittsburgh Steelers superstar wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster, Carolina Panthers’ London-raised defensive end Efe Obada and two-time Super Bowl winner Osi Umenyiora and his BBC TV colleague Jason Bell.
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 the sport 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.
Alistair Kirkwood, NFL UK Managing Director, said:
“It’s been fantastic seeing these young aspiring athletes represent the NFL in its first-ever event at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium today. I’m very excited to watch the successful applicants grow and develop from September onwards.”
Smith-Schuster added: “I’ve really enjoyed taking part in today’s trials and being able to speak to the students. I’ve been very impressed with the athleticism and talent on display. It’s amazing to see the passion for American football here and to be a part of helping the sport change people’s lives. And what an incredible venue – a fantastic setting for NFL games.”
Obada said: “Growing up here in the UK, I how valuable opportunities like this can be for these youngsters and how important they will be for growing the sport in this country. Being part of the tryouts has been a memorable day for me. I’ve been delighted to meet the young people here today and watch them take this incredible opportunity with both hands. I wish them all the very best for the future.”