LONDON – The National Football League announced a major UK initiative – endorsed by some of the biggest names in sport – that aims to use American football to create life-changing educational and professional opportunities for young people.
The NFL Academy, which begins operations in September 2019, will offer student athletes aged 16-18 the opportunity to combine education with life skills and intensive training in the sport under full-time professional coaches.
Supported by Nike and based at Barnet and Southgate College, in North London, the NFL Academy will provide students with pathways into employment, further education and even the potential opportunity to play NCAA college football in the United States.
"The Academy is a first-of-its kind initiative that will deliver against three key elements: education, character development and football," said NFL UK Managing Director Alistair Kirkwood. "The inspiration for the idea was our long-term partnership with Tottenham Hotspur. As well as playing games at the new stadium, we had a desire to create something meaningful for the community on a year-round basis.
"Also, we have seen from the success of players such as Efe Obada in our Player Pathway program that with the right kind of ambition and approach there is potential to achieve breakthrough results."
Obada, a 6-foot-6, 265-pound defensive end, was assigned to Carolina's practice squad in 2017 as part of the Player Pathway program. The London native then cracked the 53-man roster in 2018 and posted a sack and an interception in his NFL debut.
"Being from London and having spent time with so many young athletes there, I know how much the NFL Academy will mean to them," said Obada, who will serve in an ambassadorial role for the academy. "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."