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Baltimore Ravens British offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor is happy to be home

Posted Sep 20, 2017

Jermaine Eluemunor can expect a warm welcome at Wembley this Sunday!

When the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants splashed around in the Wembley Stadium mud in the very first regular season game to be played in London back in 2007, few would have realised that a star was born on that rain-soaked night.

Sitting just a few miles away in his Chalk Farm home in north-west London, was a 12-year-old by the name of Jermaine Eluemunor. He had never seen American football before stumbling across the Dolphins-Giants clash while channel surfing on his sofa.

The teenager was hooked and set out on a storybook path that sees him return to Wembley Stadium today as a key member of the Baltimore Ravens.

Eluemunor explains: “I was just looking for an Arsenal game on the TV and when I saw the green and white of the Dolphins and the blue Giants helmets under the bright lights I thought, ‘What is this?’

“I was drawn to the hitting, the throwing, the catching, the running and how you had these huge guys on the offensive line but other really athletic players running with the ball. I was really intrigued about what was going on so I started doing my own research. And from there, I just fell in love with the game.”

After his initial introduction via the Dolphins and Giants, Eluemunor fuelled his American football passion by joining his local amateur team, the London Blitz. But that introduction to the non-contact version of the sport did not come without frustration.

“I played for a little bit at the London Blitz but I wanted to hit and I was too young to hit,” Eluemunor admits. “So I went back to rugby.”

At the age of 14, Eluemunor moved to America with his father and made considerable sacrifices in order to pursue his NFL dream.

“It was kind of rough at first because I was away from the rest of my family and it was just me and him,” Eluemunor explains. “I was living with an aunt in New Jersey and I only saw my dad on weekends because he was working and I didn’t see my mum or my little brother or big sister for about two years.

“I started playing football at Morris Knolls High School (in Denville, New Jersey) but it wasn’t fun back then. I was this big kid who wanted to play real bad but I was still trying to learn the game – at that time, I didn’t know there were so many rules!”

As he progressed as a player and became a high school starter on the offensive line, Eluemunor upped his exercise regime with a view to one day playing in the NFL. It was a goal he set for himself early in his American adventure.

“I wanted to do whatever it took to get to the NFL,” Baltimore’s 2017 fifth-round draft pick says. “I would stay up late and work out, do push-ups in my house, run up and down our stairs. I would do anything I thought would get me to where I’m at right now. I guess it all worked out because I’m here in the NFL.”

After high school, Eluemunor still had to prove his worth and walked on (without a scholarship) at Lackawanna College in Pennsylvania. Putting his fierce work ethic to good use, the 338-pounder became a first-year starter and eventually moved on to the bigger stage at Texas A&M… where he was forced to play a waiting game.

Eluemunor reveals: “I’ve always had to face obstacles and I didn’t play at A&M until my senior year because I had all these American guys who went in the first round ahead of me like Jake Matthews, Cedric Ogbuehi and Germain Ifedi.

“When I finally got my opportunity, I knew it was now or never and that I had to succeed because of all the sacrifices we had made for me to be there. So I played with a chip on my shoulder every game. I felt that if I left anything in the tank on gameday, I was wasting my opportunity. My motivation during my senior year in college was all about putting it all on the line – it was a case of all or nothing.”

That approach paid off and Eluemunor is now proud to be a Raven and an NFL player. He is also more than happy to serve as a role model for young British players who hope to follow in his footsteps.

“I have all these teenagers in the UK asking me for advice and I want to show people that you can achieve anything if you just put your mind to it,” Eluemunor stresses. “I tell them to keep working hard and to keep pushing through. There will be times when you think you can’t do it but as long as you keep pushing yourself, you can achieve anything.”

While he is only just beginning his NFL journey as a rookie offensive lineman with the Ravens, Eluemunor’s return to Wembley Stadium brings his story full circle. The famous stadium will always be associated with kick-starting his love affair with the NFL a decade ago.

And that’s why Eluemunor will be proud to run out of the tunnel this afternoon. Keep an eye out for Baltimore’s number 71, who might just end up carrying the British flag.

“That would make me real proud,” Eluemunor concludes. “Holding that flag and running out of the tunnel would be one of the craziest moments of my life. I would love that more than anything. I’m going to start a campaign to see if they let me do that.

“It would also serve as a reminder to young players in the UK that you can achieve anything you want with hard work. If they think about where I came from and then see me run out of the tunnel at Wembley Stadium, they will think about how they can get to where I am right now.”


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