NFL announces London academy that will combine football training with education and life skills

Last month, the NFL held a pro day for seven prospects from around the world who were interested in playing American football.

One of those taking part was Christian Wade, a British rugby star who was assigned to the Buffalo Bills.

He may be joined by other compatriots soon.

The NFL Academy

On Tuesday, the league announced the NFL Academy, a London-based program that will offer students ages 16-18 the chance to learn American football through intensive training. The Academy will begin in September.

Carolina Panthers defensive end Efe Obada got his start in a British league of American football. (AP)
Carolina Panthers defensive end Efe Obada got his start in a British league of American football. (AP)

Those chosen will also receive classroom education and life skills.

“The Academy is a first-of-its-kind initiative that will deliver against three key elements: education, character development, and football,” said Alistair Kirkwood, the managing director of NFL UK. “The inspiration for the idea was our long-term partnership with [soccer club] Tottenham Hotspur. As well as playing games at the [Spurs’] new stadium, we had a desire to create something meaningful for the community on a year-round basis.”

Supported by Nike, the program will be based at Barnet and Southgate College in North London.

Pathway for London players

The league mentions the “potential opportunity” for those in the Academy to play football for an NCAA school, and undoubtedly nearly every applicant and student will be hoping for the same.

There have been a few UK-born or -raised players in the NFL, including current Carolina Panthers defensive lineman Efe Obada.

“Being from London and having spent time with so many young athletes there, I know how much the NFL Academy will mean to them,” Obada said. “To have the chance to pursue American football while receiving an education and other life-changing skills is an awesome opportunity. The values that the sport teaches go beyond the field and can help you make more of your life. I am really excited to give the NFL Academy my support and help these young people achieve their dreams.”

Obada, the first player from the International Pathway program to make a 53-man roster, is one of several players who have signed on to be Academy ambassadors, with regular visits to mentor the student-athletes.

Others who have agreed to be ambassadors are Cleveland Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr., Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, British-born Philadelphia Eagles running back Jay Ajayi, and Hall of Fame wideout Jerry Rice.

A series of tryouts over the coming months will determine the first class of about 80 students.

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