The third annual Jacksonville Jaguars Academy event has been branded a success by all involved after a weekend that saw over 100 amateur players and coaches receive expert tuition from their NFL counterparts.
Eight NFL legends – headed by Super Bowl-winning QB Mark Brunell and Hall of Fame candidate Tony Boselli – took time out to put British and European players through their paces over a three-day weekend at London’s Brunel University, and admitted to being impressed by the level of ability and potential on show.
After two successful non-contact camps in 2016 and ‘17, the Academy – the only one of its kind in the UK – introduced the use of pads and controlled hitting for the first time, providing the players with a genuine feel of practising at the highest level. The increased reality on the field was backed up off it, with post-session video analysis enabling players to review practice and learn from their mistakes – and successes – earlier in the day.
“It was an amazing opportunity to be coached by players of such pedigree,” Bristol Aztecs player Shaun Cook commented, “I’ve learnt so many new drills and tactics that would never have been possible otherwise in the UK – I wouldn’t think twice about signing up again next year.”
With scouting experts 3Step on the lookout for breakthrough talent, Brunell – a Super Bowl winner with the New Orleans Saints in 2009 – admitted that he had been impressed by both the level of coaching and participation across the weekend.
“The level of coaching that was put on across the weekend was second to none, [and] it was great to see such a high level of competition amongst the players,” the 18-year NFL confirmed, “The introduction of the ‘pads and thud’ gave players a real insight in to how the players train over in the NFL. The UK has some real talent coming through, which is great to see.”
There was added incentive for participants – drawn from teams across the UK and Europe – to go hard throughout the weekend, as the Academy introduced the ‘Teammate of the Week’ award that carried another amazing opportunity. The coaches scored each hopeful on teamwork, playing ability, leadership, communication, enthusiasm and team spirit, before announcing that Cody Allison would be heading off on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Jacksonville to receive private coaching sessions with Jaguars coaches and former players, along with a behind-the-scenes tour of TIAA Bank Field and two sideline tickets to a Jaguars home game.
“With the Academy being residential, it provides a realistic feel of what it must actually be like to train in the NFL – and now I’m going to experience that for real,” a stunned Allison grinned, “I still can’t quite believe it!”.
Alongside with the Playing Academy, the Jaguars also ran a Coaching Academy to help develop and expand the level of sideline knowledge on this side of the Atlantic, with aspiring coaches shadowing their eight NFL counterparts in a one -day clinic.
“Bringing in ‘pads and thud’ this year allowed us, as coaches, to up the level of the playing and enhance the coaching experience by introducing new drills and by teaching more skills and techniques within the sessions,” Boselli concluded, “It was really rewarding to help deliver the programme and it’s exciting to see so many individuals so enthusiastic about the sport here in the UK.”