THEY CALL it America’s Game.
And with less than one per-cent of the NFL made up by players from outside of North America, it’s easy to see why.
An 18-year-old from Whiteley is bidding to break the mould, though.
Tom Samonig is on a mission to make his mark Stateside after a whole lot of progress in a short space of time.
Two years ago, the teenager had never even watched an American football game, let alone played in one.
Turning up to a Hampshire Thrashers training session changed all that, though.
Finding his position as an offensive lineman – one of the big guys whose primary job is to protect the quarterback – Samonig made a rapid impact.
In just a few months, the 6ft 4in, 26-stone talent was a member of Great Britain Lions. Then he earned an invitation this summer to Top Gun – a prestigious training camp in Virginia for the best high school players in America.
Samonig will go to Texas in January after being selected to play for Europe against a top high school team.
And with NFL and college scouts present, he is hoping the experience will put him in good stead to one day ply his trade in the sport across the Pond.
‘It’s been an amazing past two years,’ said Samonig.
‘I just wanted to play sport after finishing my GCSEs so, two years ago, I turned up to Hampshire Thrashers.
‘I had never even watched an NFL game in my life but I took to American football immediately. It was perfect for my size. I soon got selected by Britain. And during a training camp in Stirling, I was one of 11 players selected to play for Europe, which automatically got us an invite to Top Gun.
‘The Super Bowl-winning coach Larry Zierlein selected me which was fantastic.’
Samonig added: ‘Going out to the camp in America was the pinnacle so far, though.
‘The training experience was just unbelievable. Incredible. It was three days long and was full of ex-NFL coaches.
‘The guys there are deemed as the best in America and I saw they were that little bit quicker and have more technique.
‘It’s pushed me on to do more now.’
Out of around 1,700 players currently in the NFL, less than 70 hail from outside of North America.
Despite the statistics, though, Samonig is aiming high.
Currently studying A-level English and maths at Filton College in Bristol – while playing gridiron at Bristol Academy for Sport – the Cincinnati Bengals fan hopes his appearances for Europe can help him catch the eye of scouts from American colleges.
Samonig said: ‘We play in San Antonio in January as part of the build-up to the Army All-American Bowl.
‘There will be lots of college scouts there, so it’s a great chance but I have another year after that, too.
‘It is hard to come from this country and get a break because Americans play it from such a young age.
‘But the sport is getting so popular over here and I’d love to set a path for others to follow.
‘I’m really grateful to my coaches at Hampshire Thrashers and I’m just looking forward to what is ahead for me.’
Despite Samonig’s huge progress, he has to pay his own expenses as American football is not funded by Sport England. If you are interested in sponsoring him, contact Jo Samonig on 07876 680165.
Hampshire Thrashers are keen for new players for their youth (14-16), junior (16-19) and senior teams.
For more information, log on to thethrashers.org.uk