The Jacksonville Jaguars welcomed 160 British and European amateur American footballers to Loughborough University over the weekend where Jags player and coaches showed them what it takes to train like an NFL professional.
The players were put through their paces over three days in the first ever Jaguars Academy before a one-day Coaching Academy was held on the Sunday – both with the aim of improving the standard of the game in the UK.
Players were grouped into groups dependent on their positions and were given expert coaching from Jags staff.
The coaching staff were led by Special Teams Coordinator Mike Mallory and also included Assistant Defensive Line coach Aaron Whitecotton and former NFL tight end and current Director of Player Development and Youth Football Marcus Pollard.
The offensive line group were coached by one of the best of all-time as former Jags left tackle Tony Boselli made the trip while three-time Pro Bowler Marcus Stroud, former Jags quarterback David Garrard and ex-cornerback Drayton Florence made up the illustrious alumni group.
The players were also paid a visit by current players Denard Robinson and British Free Agent player Efe Obada who both gave speeches on making the jump to the NFL before getting involved out on the training pitch.
And Coach Mallory was vociferous in his praise for a group of participants who were laying the ground work for future generations of British players.
He said: "What really stuck out for me was just the levels of enthusiasm there. All the guys were incredibly receptive to the coaching and you could see the difference from the first practice that they were taking what we had to say on board and apply it.
"I wasn't sure what to expect when I came over to the UK for this Academy but you can see how much these guys have embraced the game and with the flashes of athleticism you can say 'well this is something we can work with.'
"They guys have been so impressive and we have all had an absolute blast coaching them. I think this is the start of something that can really go from strength to strength."
The goal of the Playing Academy and the Coaching Academy was to improve the standard of the game in Britain by offering a level of coaching not available outside the NFL.
And Lucie Stewart, a safety, from London insisted the three-days of intensive coaching had made all the difference to her game and she was raring to go again when the Academy returns next year.
She added: "It is absolutely amazing to have actual NFL coaches and former players taking you for training. It is honestly a dream come true.
"You really do have to take everything they say on board and they were so approachable if you had any questions even during breaks in the session. The whole event was fantastic and it is great that the Jags come and give that bit of extra attention to the UK."
As well as expert coaching on the pitch the players spent each evening going through film of their performances during the day. The coaches also let the players in on a few secrets and clever moves players use to get one over their opponents – making them more savvy players when they get back to their clubs.
The Jaguars Playing Academy and Jaguars Coaching Academy is part of a broader strategy to improve and grow the game of American football in the UK. To show their commitment the Jags are also putting on a national 7on7 flag American Football tournament, the Jaguars Se7ens Cup, and a schools programme, JagTag. With these programmes the Jaguars are aiming to improve the quality and playing knowledge of American Football at grassroots.
The Jaguars Academy will be back again next year but if you can't wait until then be sure to sign up for the Jaguars Sevens Cup here.