The NFL will open a training academy in London this fall for teenagers who want to tackle the sport.
Starting in September, the NFL Academy will offer student-athletes ages 16 to 18 "the opportunity to combine education with the life skills and intensive training in the sport under full-time professional coaches," the league said in a statement Tuesday.
Sponsored by Nike and headquartered at Barnet and Southgate College in North London, the academy hopes to identify and develop players who could go on to play college football in the United States.
"This is an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of many young people, regardless of their experience of our sport. It is also an opportunity for us to create a pathway for players to get into the American college system and maybe even to the NFL itself," NFL UK managing director Alistair Kirkwood said.
Recruitment for the first class of approximately 80 students will take place through tryouts over the next three months. More details are available online at nflacademy.com.
Many high-profile current and former NFL stars have pledged to support the academy's efforts as ambassadors and also by mentoring participants through regular visits, including London-born Osi Umenyiora, a two-time Super Bowl-winning defensive end with the New York Giants, and Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice.
Also confirmed are Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, British-born Philadelphia Eagles running back Jay Ajayi, and London-raised Carolina Panthers defensive end Efe Obada.
"American football changed my life and I have seen it change the lives of many others," Ajayi said. "I am looking forward to helping the students at the NFL Academy reach their potential, whether it is as students or football players. Maybe I will be playing with some of them in the NFL one day."