Would you give up the deposit on a house to travel around the NFL in 84 days? Whilst it may seem like a crazy idea, one man from the UK has done just that. Jacob Barnor (aka the Football Wanderer) from Leeds is living the dream of probably most NFL fans. He's taking on the massive feat of trying to visit all 32 teams in the quickest time in order to break a Guinness world record.
"I've been into the NFL for a long time now, for about eight or nine years," Jacob Barnor explains. "I've played in the UK and coached for about 6 years so I'm a massive fan. It's kind of become my life. There were certain stadiums I've always wanted to go to, places like Lambeau Field and Arrowhead. I always had the dream of doing a trip where I would do five stadiums and then I thought it would be cool to do them all over my lifetime. I started to research it and I came across the current record of 86 days, 10 hours and 25 minutes set by Alicia Barnhart in 2015 and I thought to myself 'that would be so cool'. It was an idea that I thought would go away, but it never did. So, once the schedule came out in April and I realised it was possible I decided to go for it and here I am."
Jacob has funded the journey entirely by himself and decided to take the plunge after finding house hunting too serious:
"I'd been saving up for years and I said,* 'if I hit this number that would be my deposit for a house.'* I then had this idea and realised it's probably about the same amount of money. I thought If I don't do this now, I'll probably never do it. I can always save up later and get a house, so it seemed to be the more logical thing to do."
Jacob decided to take three months unpaid leave from his current role to live out his dream and revealed he informed most of his colleagues through social media: "Work have been very supportive; it's quite a big company and I couldn't sit down and tell everyone. I told the people that really needed to know like my manager and then I just posted it on Facebook. A couple of people saw it like at their desks and they turned to me and said, 'Are you leaving?'. I did reassure them that I was coming back though."
And his friends' reactions have been pretty similar: "Some of my friend definitely think I'm a bit crazy but a bunch of them have come out for various games. I have some friends who regularly come out to watch games, so they have scheduled their yearly games to join me at different points of the journey. I've got two friends who are flying out this and I'm going to pick them up in Pittsburgh on route to Cleveland. I've actually only done about half of it on my own. My mum came out last week and my dad came out at the start, so it's been really cool. I've seen so many amazing things so it's nice to share that with them. As a fan when you come out for a game you might not know what you need to do with regards to tailgate etc. I've been able to experience the local tailgate scene and how they do game day. We don't really have the same thing in the UK compared to what they do so it's been really cool to share that."
"I've got an official Guinness World Record form that someone who works for each team has to fill out," explains Jacob. "The form confirms my attendance and that I was there for the entire game and they have to give their contact details in case Guinness World Record want to get in touch with them. I've got a GPS tracker that I must have on at every game day so that they can see I was there. I have to do a video for every first play and every final play with myself in the video both times. The main reason I'm doing it is for the experience and not the record so I'm not going to cheat. There are probably easier ones I could do if I was going to! However, there has been some games when by the final play I'm almost the only one left in the stadium. When the Patriots beat the Dolphins 43-0 there was not many people left on that final play. After the final game I'll submit all my evidence and I think it takes 12 weeks for them to review it. You can pay a fee and they do it within a week, but I probably won't have the money to afford that by then! It will be a very long 12 weeks wait if I can't. When I get to the end, I'll know I will have done it, it's just whether they believe me!"
All adventures have their challenges as Jacob soon found out: "Trying to get the formed signed is always a bit of a challenge but luckily so far it always seemed to have worked out. Even when there have been problems, I've managed to sort it. The other challenge is probably the travelling. At the start it didn't really get to me but we're a few weeks in now and I've started to get tired really quickly. Living in Airbnb's all the time does start to get to you. I'll sometimes take in a college game as well, so my schedule is normally Wednesday - flying, Thursday - game, Friday - flying, Saturday - game, Sunday - game, Monday - flying and game! So, I get to Tuesday and I just don't want to move. I tried to explain that to people back home but when they are just working, they don't really understand," he jokes.
Jacob admits there isn't too much he's missing from the UK but it would be nice to have one home comfort: "I could just do with like a normal home cooked meal. I'm obviously on the road so I'm eating out or having a takeaway almost every day. Especially when you are trying to keep costs down you end up eating fast food. I'm a little bit worried for my health especially on weeks where I have four games. There's a lot of drinking as well, I think my body can't wait for it to end. My mind is happy and wants to keep going but my body is kinda telling me it's time to stop."
But there have been more highlights than challenges for Jacob: "I've been blessed with some great games. Thursday night football this year has been really good, and I've been at all of them. Week one was great being at the Texans game where the lead changed hands like five times in the last two minutes. That was when it really hit me what I was doing. I came out of that game and thought 'this is my life for the next ten weeks!". So that was really good. Lambeau Field was definitely a highlight, it's somewhere I always wanted to go to, and it lived up to my dreams. The people there are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet, even after they just lost! There was no smack talking they just said "oh yeah, good game, well done!" You could see hardcore Eagles fans not really sure how to respond to such nice people, it was quite amusing. One surprise to me was how much I loved Detroit. I'd only really heard bad things about the city beforehand. When I got there, I just had the best day. The people were so nice, the stadium was one of the louder ones that I've been to. In all honestly I could pick a highlight from every game it's been more fun than I ever dreamed it could be."
Jacob is now on the last leg of his journey with just five games remaining, but he still has a lot to look forward to: "I've got some good games coming up. I'm looking forward to going to Houston. When I was in Kansas City, I got talking to a Scottish Texans fan who comes out every year to see them and he introduced me to some fans he knew. So now when I head to the Texans game it will be one of the first tailgates where I'm going with people I know, so I'm really looking forward to that. I'm also looking forward to that last game which will be on Thanksgiving at Atlanta. I'm really intrigued to see how a Thanksgiving tailgate goes. I was a bit worried and wasn't sure if there would still be one, but I'm led to believe there will be a full Thanksgiving dinner! So that's going to be a lot of fun and the best way to finish."
So, what next for Jacob? Well the avid 49ers fan is hoping he'll one day be able to watch his team in the Super Bowl...just maybe not too soon:
"One day I'd love to go to the Super Bowl and that's always been a lifelong ambition of mine. If the 49ers make it this year, I might need to take out a loan. I always said if they were there I would go. It's looking good for them at the moment. I'm not sure how I'll make it if they do but I'll have to find a way because who knows when I'll get that chance again. I think I'd like to come back next year and attend my favourite places as a 49ers fan. I made so many contacts out here it would be easy for me to do that.'
Quick fire questions
Best food: Chicago deep dan pizza
Best drink: North Carolina - at the tailgate they brew their own beer called the roaring riot it was amazing
Best Tailgate: Buffalo
Best memorabilia obtained: I got a mini towel from almost every game, but the best was the Dolphins. They gave me a goodie bag with sunglasses, a t-shirt, a hat and they even let me go on the field at the end.
Most friendly atmosphere: Green Bay, definitely Green Bay
Best atmosphere: Seattle, it pains me to say it as a 9ers fan, but it really was. That's the loudest place I've ever been to.