Wembley In Harmony: NFL and Football
As part of the NFL coming to London and the big game on Sunday, 2014 has seen Wembley move from being the ultimate football venue in the UK to the number 1 American Football stadium outside of the US of A. Most people would even argue that American Football has been genius play by the FA with the England Football Team and their support at some of their lowest numbers in years. We decided to head to Wembley ourselves, don our trainers and team up with NFL and Premier League footballers alike with Nike and see if they two really could share the pitch in the backdrop of the iconic stadium.
We were taken through a number of essential drills under the watchful eyes of Christian Eriksen & Jan Vertongen of Tottenham as well as none other than Jeff Heath & Barry Church Of the Dallas Cowboys, not to mention some fine coaches from both sports.
We had the chance to get a rare insight into the training regimes and drills of the NFL and some one on one tuition with some of the biggest names in the NFL. J.T Thomas, linebacker for the Jacksonville Jaguars in fact, actually said that he could see a linebacker in me yet…he was definitely just being nice in that way that Americans are with sport though.
As well as running the drills and soaking in the fun of the evening, we were also very keen to find out what the thoughts of some of the pro’s from both football and other-side-of-the-Atlantic football were. We chatted to Tottenham midfield genius Christian Eriksen and Dallas Cowboys safety Jeff Hughes to see what they thought.
Christian Eriksen Interview
With the Wembley changes and the addition of NFL and Rugby. Do you think this will have an effect on the way Football has traditionally ‘owned’ the stadium?
I think so, hopefully some more fans, more people who will want to come to the stadium. I don’t really know what will happen with the football, whether that means they will steal the fans from soccer I don’t know. But I think it’s mostly a good thing.
Do you think the introduction of NFL over here will have a positive effect on sport in the UK and here at Wembley?
Yeah I think so, It’s weird because you get the two clubs from another country playing in this one, but yet it’s still amazing how many people show up. I still haven’t been so I don’t know how it feels, but it’s amazing that so many people want to watch.
What you’ve seen here tonight with Nike, how do you think their influence in the sporting world is going to help the transformation of the NFL coming here?
I think they give a lot to all the lads who are trying to get into the sport, to see the differences, it’s a fun thing. A night like tonight, where they get to try new drills from the NFL is fun for them and it’s good that they get to try it.
Jeff Heath Interview in London
How do you feel about NFL coming to the UK and Wembley?
I’m really excited about it, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Football here in London and they enjoy these (NFL) games and the tickets sell out fast, so I’m just excited to put on a good show on Sunday.
How is the reception back home with bringing an American sport over here? Is it an exciting prospect or would be people rather it stay in the US?
No I think people are excited about it, there are loads of fans here and if they had a home team here (London) in the NFL, I think it would create more buzz. I feel like a lot of the players, once they’e figured out the whole travel situation and how that would work out, it would be really cool.
Does you pre-game training regime differ over here with than how it would back in the US?
We try and do it the same, but there are a lot more media obligations to do over here. But for the most part it’s a typical routine. It’s important to stick to a good routine, but it’s tough here because of all the transport to Wembley and stuff, but we’re aiming to keep it consistent.
How do you feel about the game on Sunday?
Like every game in the NFL it’s going to be tough, every team is good, records are irrelevant, every team has great players so we’ve got to show up and play good on Sunday otherwise it’s not going to go well for us. We’ve been working on it all week, preparing to play our best on Sunday.
In the UK, Wembley is an iconic stadium, it’s the biggest we have, but compared to the US it’s basically a college football stadium. Is there any buzz for these games at this stadium back home?
Yeah, I’ve heard of Wembley. I watch Soccer, played it growing up so I know a lot about it and I think others are the same.
You’re a safety for the Dallas Cowboys, for our readers that don’t follow the NFL what does that mean?
So we are the last line of defence, you’ve got D line, linebackers, and we’re part of the last line. We have to cover receivers be able to play passes. Kind of like a hybrid role, but we have to be fast enough and strong enough to handle the offence coming at us. It’s a fun position.
How do you think Nike helped the NFL come over to the UK, do you think it’s essential to have someone like Nike involved?
Oh yeah, anytime you see the Nike logo on anything it carries a little more weight, and they make the best stuff for the NFL in my opinion, being one of the best brands and NFL sponsors putting their name on something like this brings a lot more attention to it I think.
So there, you’ve heard it from the mouths of the pros! But what do you think? Drop us a comment below.
It’s not every day that you walk through the doors of the Wembley Stadium changing rooms, get kitted up and then head for training drills with some big names in the Premiership and NFL. Well, this time, it was.
Average Joes participated at the Nike’s ‘Football meets Football’ training event at Wembley ahead of the final 2014 NFL International Series game. This Sunday the Dallas Cowboys will take on the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium, for more information go to www.nike.com/suitupforsunday.