Former England Rugby Captain, Lewis Moody MBE, made a dramatic return to the field this weekend, not to play rugby but to take part in the Jacksonville Jaguars annual American football playing academy.
It didn’t take too long before the converted Line-backer, Lewis, found himself flying into tackles again, much to the delight of the elite coaching staff, which included Jaguars Alumni and NFL professionals.
Over the course of the day the former Leicester Tigers Flanker took part in a series of intensive drills, position skills and game-play sessions – giving him the ultimate NFL experience at a camp not otherwise available outside the U.S.
The Jaguars Academy is a three-day residential training programme, which was held at Brunel University on the weekend, with over 120 amateur players from across Europe taking part.
Talking about his experience, Lewis, 41, said: “The academy exceeded my expectations, it was absolutely class. I was nervous coming in but to have the opportunity to come here through the Jacksonville Jaguars, it’s been remarkable.
“To have the likes of Tony Boselli and Mark Brunell here, having grown up watching [them in] the NFL, is just a unique experience. I can’t speak highly enough of the day and the opportunity, I’ve had an absolute ball.
“The Jags are the only team committed to playing in the UK and they invest so much in developing the game here. You had 120 people playing today, men and women [being] influenced with the enthusiasm from the Jaguars. They go back and influence 50/60 guys at their clubs. The game’s spreading, the quality, the enjoyment, everything’s getting better.
After the former England rugby player, Christian Wade, shocked the sporting world earlier this year, switching from professional rugby to American Football, Moody believes we will see more athlete’s crossover between sports.
He added: “The basics are very similar to rugby, you’ve got to be able to catch, tackle and have explosive power, speed and agility. The technical side is completely different and that’s what I struggled with. For example, they don’t take players to the ground, which I’m learning slightly! However, there are enough similarities between the two sports which is why we saw the Dallas Cowboys go for Jonah Lomu after the 95’ World Cup and The Bills now having Christian Wade, the latest crossover.”
The football camp was a fully padded contact academy for men and women aged 18-35 years old, who all had a year’s experience playing with pads. The sessions were carried out by eight NFL coaches, including Super Bowl winners Mark Brunell and Reggie Barlow, as well as Hall of Fame finalist Tony Boselli.
Jacksonville Jaguars legend, Boselli, said: “It’s been another sensational year at the Academy. We love coming to the UK and seeing the enthusiasm and passion from these amateur players. Lewis was a fantastic sport and an inspiration to the guys. He was a totally committed professional and gave it his all.
“The level of quality grows year on year, which is exactly what we want to see – all of the coaches have had a blast, and it’s given us a boost going into the new season, knowing that the game is improving in the UK.”
About Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a professional American football team based in Jacksonville, Florida. They are members of the South Division of the American Football Conference (AFC) in the National Football League (NFL). The Jaguars joined the NFL as an expansion team in 1995 and are owned by Shahid Khan, who is also owner of Fulham Football Club.
The club plays their home games at TIAA Bank Field, located near the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville. The team headquarters is also located in the stadium. Since their inception in 1995 the Jaguars have won two division championships and have made six playoff appearances.
The Jaguars have agreed to play one home game each year at Wembley Stadium in London, UK until 2020. They first played in 2013 against San Francisco 49ers, followed in 2014 by the Dallas Cowboys. The Jaguars beat the Buffalo Bills 34-31 at Wembley in 2015 and followed that with a 30-27 win over the Indianapolis Colts in 2016. In 2017 the Jaguars continued an impressive home form by beating the Baltimore Ravens 44-7. In 2018 the Jaguars took on the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles in front of a record-breaking crowd of 85,870 fans on the 28thOctober at Wembley.