Star running back Jay Ajayi will be the first London-born skill position player to take the field, something not lost on the NFL official who runs the show oversees.
"Having local heroes has always been something we see as a key part of growing the sport," said Mark Waller, the NFL's executive vice president for international. "Jay's success has given us a player who gains national media attention and can create headlines through scoring TDs in a way that a lineman, for example, can never achieve. He is someone we can use as a success story when talking to young British athletes about the potential of taking up our sport."
Ajayi, who was questionable with a knee injury heading into the weekend, will play. And yes, it is a first big deal. The official International Ambassador for NFL UK has been everywhere this week.
His appearance at a New Era store in London drew lines out the door. He was the featured player at the NFL's UK pep rally. Already a top-five selling jersey in the UK, Ajayi now is the first player to have his own hashtag emoji. He also partnered with IT'SUGAR for his own candy called Sweeties that dropped this week.
"He is an engaging and cool young man who has created cut-through for us on a variety of digital platforms -- first NFL player to have first Twitter emoji -- through various offseason trips to the UK," Waller said. "Jay playing at Wembley gives us the opportunity to magnify all of the above through enhanced media coverage, social and digital outreach and general awareness of his great story."
Ajayi, who moved to the United States when he was seven, isn't the first London-born player. The most high-profile was Osi Umenyiora. But Ajayi is taking it further. He visited London last summer to surprise a youth football team and he'll have a camp in London next summer. But make no mistake, today is a huge part of his journey.