Barnet and Southgate College has launched a partnership with the National Football League which has been endorsed by some of the biggest names in American football. The NFL Academy, to be based at the London college, will open in September, offering student athlethes aged 16-18 a chance to bring together further education and intensive training under professional coaches.
Supported by Nike, the academy will aim to provide students with pathways into employment or further study, but will also offer students the potential opportunity to play NCAA college football in the United States.
'A first of its kind'
NFL UK managing director Alistair Kirkwood said the initiative was a first of its kind that would “deliver against three key elements: education, character development and football”. “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 programme that with the right kind of ambition and approach there is potential to achieve breakthrough results.”
Barnet and Southgate College will provide the students’ education and has appointed a coaching staff who will work alongside NFL UK’s development team to create the football programme. Mr Kirkwood said: “We are very excited to be working with Barnet and Southgate College, with its excellent academic record. The role of the NFL will be to drive recognition and prestige for the programme, provide technical expertise from a football standpoint and develop the character development curriculum – details of which will follow.”
“This is an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of many young people, regardless of their experience of our sport. It is also an opportunity for us to create a pathway for players to get into the American college system and maybe even to the NFL itself.”
'Firth UK college to offer unique programme'
Darren Mepham, chief executive of Barnet and Southgate College, said: “We are proud and excited to be the first UK college to offer this unique programme in partnership with the NFL. It joins a number of other sporting academies offered by the college, highlighting our breadth of experience in delivering these dual programmes.
“The NFL Academy gives aspiring young American football players or outstanding athletes the chance to develop their skills and knowledge of the game, while also achieving a full-time education. Those aged between 16 and 18 years old are eligible to trial with an aim to enrol on a BTEC level 1, 2 or 3 course, a BTEC level 3 extended diploma, NVQ level 2 coaching, YMCA personal training course or an A-level study package. It really is a fantastic opportunity for young people to be able to take a step towards achieving their sporting dreams." Recruitment for the first class of approximately 80 students will take place over the next three months via a series of tryouts.
A number of high-profile NFL stars have pledged their support for the initiative, including London-born two-time Super Bowl winner Osi Umenyiora, Philadelphia Eagles’ British-born running back Jay Ajayi and the Carolina Panthers’ London-raised defensive end Efe Obada. They will serve as ambassadors, and will regularly visit the academy to help mentor the student athletes.
“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 Mr Obada. “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.”