A flag football coach who has introduced more than 300 schoolchildren to the sport of American football over the past decade will be among the local heroes carrying the Olympic torch across the United Kingdom this summer.
Jon Tait – head coach of the Woodham Warriors – will carry the torch through his home town of Billingham, County Durham, on Sunday June 17.
“I’m absolutely over the moon and it’s a dream come true,” said Tait, who serves as assistant head teacher at Woodham Community Technology College in Newton Aycliffe. “My mum nominated me for the work I’ve been doing in schools in introducing children to American football.
“I was overwhelmed when I heard the news. It’s brilliant for me but it’s also brilliant for the sport of American football to know there is some recognition for the work that goes on behind the scenes.
The father of two, who led the Woodham Warriors to the Flag Football World Championship in New Orleans in 2007, will carry the Olympic torch on Father’s Day, adding extra special meaning to the occasion.
“It’s the best Father’s Day present I could have hoped for,” Tait admitted. “It’s a piece of history that my children can witness and pass down to their kids and grandchildren.
“I’ll carry the torch for about 400 metres and I’ve been told we get to keep our own torch, which would be a fantastic memento. That will be something I can pass down through the generations. There will be people lining the streets and this is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
And being an American football coach, Tait is confident he won’t cough up a costly fumble at the most inopportune time.
“I’ll make sure I’ve taken care of all the points of pressure,” Tait joked. “Don’t worry – I won’t drop the torch!”
Having been rewarded for his efforts on the gridiron, Tait would like to see the sport of American football feature at a future Olympic Games.
“I don’t see why it cannot happen,” Tait concluded. “I think it’s a natural progression if the game continues to attract overseas fans through the regular season games in the United Kingdom, Sky Sports programming and through the sale of NFL merchandise.
“If the game continues to grow at the rate being projected by the NFL, there’s no reason why it cannot happen. That would be the ultimate recognition for the sport and I think it could happen, why not?”