NFL Academy changing lives while creating new pathway for international football players – CBS Sports

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Tom Brady will make more history when his Buccaneers face the Seahawks on Sunday. The game will be the first NFL contest played in Germany, as pro football continues to increase its global presence. Along with Sunday’s game — the fifth game in the league’s 2022 International Series — the NFL has found another significant way to expand the game while providing a new pathway for international players. 
Founded in 2019, the NFL Academy offers international football players aged 16-19 the opportunity to expand their horizons as football players while also receiving a top-notch education at Loughborough University in England. Due to the pandemic, the NFL Academy didn’t begin play until this year. They won each of their games during the spring and will play their third game of the fall Saturday in Munich, the same city where Brady and Co. will face the Seahawks the following day. 
“We’re here to help change lives and to build dreams,” Head of Football at NFL Academy Kris Durham recently told CBS Sports. “Hopefully, we’ll have some NFL players come out of this in the future. That is the ultimate goal. But at the same time, you’re building stories and fans and everything else. They’re learning about the sport. Now they see a path to not only play it but to play it at a high level, and then eventually go and get a free college education. And then hopefully get to the NFL, and they’re seeing that path is being created. And so that gives a lot of motivation to join the sport and continue to work toward it.” 
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Durham said the Academy has already had about two dozen players go the United States to play college football. He said that another 20-25 former players are going to school and playing football in the UK. One of the Academy’s biggest early success stories has been Peter Clarke, a South London native who is playing tight end at Temple after receiving several Division 1 offers. 
“I got into the NFL Academy and my mindset that I was going Division 1 or I was going home,” Clark recently told SunSport. “When I got to the academy, they showed me it was a lifestyle now. This is what I had to do — weight room, eat right, stretch. … Getting to the NFL would mean everything to me, and for my family as well.”
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The Academy has participated in several camps in the United States. Team members have had up-close experiences with several NFL players that includes Broncos quarterback and Super Bowl XLVIII champion Russell Wilson
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“They are able to see it, visualize it, talk to people, and learn about the sport at a very high level,” Durham said. “That’s just one of the benefits of being an NFL Academy student athlete.” 
Their day-to-day experience at Loughborough University provides first-class experiences both educationally and athletically. 
“We’re at a place where you have Olympic athletes who have highly elite athletes training at all times,” said Durham, who played at Georgia before enjoying an NFL career as a receiver. “You have access to world-class facilities and the best things in the world. I wish I would have had this when I was their age. From a full-time training, coaching and support staff, multiple physical therapists, multiple academic and directors around the program, as well as nutritionists, mental health and wellness, and lifestyle coaches — all involved with just our academy students.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin once said that the diversity that exists within a football team is something that he wishes everyone got to experience in their daily lives. That is certainly the case with the NFL Academy, as the roster is comprised of players from various parts of the globe that includes France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Nigeria and the Netherlands. Along with furthering their academic and football careers, Academy players are also getting the chance to learn about different cultures and backgrounds. 
“Just seeing the amount of diversity on our team is extraordinary,” Durham said. “And it’s really cool to be part of their story this early on, and see how they’re progressing in the sport because traditionally, this is called American football over here. … For us to have this dynamic and diverse group is truly extraordinary, especially as we continue to build those pathways into America into the NCAA and then hopefully into the NFL.” 
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