The first two NFL regular-season games at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in October were about more than just the on-field action. As well the games, teams participating in the NFL London Games are committed to engaging with local communities by running a series of different events featuring active and alumni players.
Friday October 4 saw the Oakland Raiders host London schoolchildren at New River sports centre. More than 100 children from local Haringey schools took part in the event, which was attended by former Raiders Jim Plunkett (quarterback), Marcell Reece (running back), Mark Van Eeghen (running back) and Steve Wisenewski (guard).
The children took part in a range of football related activities that were run by members of the Queen Mary's University Vipers, University of Birmingham Lions, Brunel Burners and coaches from the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation. Student athletes from the NFL Academy were also involved in the day, supporting the children as they took part in the drills. Their involvement forms a key part of their role within the NFL Academy, with all the student athletes expected to volunteer in the local community during their time within the programme.
Jason Brisbane, Head of Community and Grassroots at NFL UK, said: 'Working with members of the wider American football community to deliver events such as these further strengthens the NFL's relationship with those teams and individuals already involved in the sport and, more importantly, strengthens the relationship with the communities that we are active in. The NFL Academy has a home in Haringey and to have the students engaging with the young people who live, and study locally creates a connection, builds aspirations and hopefully creates role models in the area.'
Also in attendance was NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Tottenham FC Ambassador Ledley King. Ledley said: 'It's fantastic to see the NFL embracing our local community and creating long-term opportunities to support young people. The NFL Academy is set to provide employment and further education for people from underprivileged backgrounds, while grassroots flag football events such as today's give children the chance to try out a new sport while having fun.
The community event was followed by NFL Academy practice, where the Raiders alumni and Commissioner Goodell met with the NFL Academy coaches and players, getting know more about them while also providing some words of inspiration.
The following week saw the Carolina Panthers play host to more than 100 students from local schools, including Harrow School, Harrow High School and a local youth organisation, The Harrow Club .The Panthers aimed to make it a day the young people wouldn't forget and sent the entire squad to the event to support the running of the drills and compete with the young participants. Panthers players taking part included Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olson, former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly and the UK's own Carolina Panther, defensive end Efe Obada.
The activities on the day were assisted by volunteers from local BAFA team Wembley Stallions and the London charity, The Big Kid foundation.
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