When I retired, I wanted to rest, relax and chill. I seriously planned on doing nothing. A year before I retired, my wife said I couldn’t just stay at home and I had to do something. So I went to speak to NFL International. With my background, they sent me to England about a week after I retired. There wasn’t a show at that point. I was going to the NFL office and we were looking for ways to expand the game over here. Then suddenly, bang, midway through a season they said there was going to be a show, it was going to be on the BBC, and they wanted me to be a part of it.
The show works because we have a real affinity for one another. I’m on the sofa with another ex-player, Jason Bell, who I was good friends with before we started. Mark Chapman, the presenter, is a really good guy and we all know our roles. When people watch, I think they see the camaraderie. It can be difficult to balance humour and analysis, but we don’t take everything too seriously, though when it’s time to be serious, we can do that.
Away from the show my life is pretty much all about kids, training and eating. I’m also helping to build an NFL academy in Nigeria. I’ve seen what the academy in London has done and there are some tremendous athletes in Nigeria who just don’t have an opportunity. You have soccer academies that bring kids to Europe and, if it doesn’t work out for them, they are done. I want to do things a bit differently. Basically, they can trade their athleticism for an education. They can go to US high schools, go to US colleges then, if it works out and they go professional, great. If it doesn’t happen, they’ve got a college degree to fall back on.
There’s a big growth opportunity for the NFL outside America. I’ve seen what the NFL was able to do for me. If I can help replicate that for one other person, great. If I can replicate it for 10 other people, that would be just incredible, so my goal is to help the NFL get bigger – in the UK, in Nigeria and beyond.
The UK is not far away from producing NFL superstars. Realistically, it’s probably five years. Until now, it’s been one thing taking rugby players and trying to convert them. Now, with the academy here as a pipeline, we can start getting to players in that sweet spot when they’re 14 or 15. Eventually, those are the ones who could end up going to college in the US and progressing from there.