NFL Pundit Osi Umenyiora is bringing American football to Britain.
Two-time Super Bowl winner Osi Umenyiora is on a mission to find a home for American Football in the UK.
After retiring from the sport after thirteen years as a player (most NFL careers typically lasting just three) Osi was in the right place at the right time. Discussions were taking place to take NFL around the world, with a view to putting roots down for an internationally recognised UK-based team.
Newly retired NFL veteran Osi, who was born in England, seemed to be the natural choice to fly the (star-spangled) flag for NFL over in the UK. “Even while I was playing, I had seen that the NFL had a keen interest in moving out here and developing games out here. I remember talking to head of NFL International two to three years before I moved out here”.
He co-hosts both The NFL Show and NFL This Week on BBC Sport alongside Mark Chapman and Jason Bell and won an RTS Sports Presenter award year in 2017 for his punditry.
He says the success of the show is down to the dynamic between the hosts. “[The TV shows] remind me of when I was in the locker room back when I was a player. We’re friends and just make fun of each other and have a good time. When I go there, [I] don't feel like I’m going to work, I feel like I’m going to just hang out with some of my friends and we just so happen to be doing a TV show. I think that comes across and I think that’s why people have responded to it”.
While there is a significant – and growing – appetite for NFL in the UK it’s having to compete with the likes of football and rugby – no mean feat considering the nation’s love for both sports. But Osi thinks people should give it a chance.
“If you're ever able to sit down and watch an NFL game - and you catch a good one -you’re hooked forever.”
“We do the show twice a week [and] people get to see the highlights. Once they understand it a little bit they tend to love it”.
He added: “So far it’s been incredible. We didn’t really know we would be quite as successful this quickly”. But, he says, there’s still some work to be done.
Yet Osi is confident that the UK will get a team in the near future. “One thing I do know about the NFL is that they don’t waste money. They've invested a bunch of money here which lets me know that they are serious about eventually bringing a franchise here - which is the ultimate goal”.
He shared some advice for people who want to step into sports reporting. “I think it's important that you're yourself. When you're on the air or performing I think you have to retain your own personality and your own way of doing things. If you maintain your own individual sense of humour and just the way you are naturally I think that comes across as more genuine and people tend to like you more.”