As we wait for training camp to begin in three weeks’ time, some members of the Jaguars roster found a unique way to pass the time. In the final leg of a UK Tour, Jamal Agnew, Devin Lloyd and Josh Allen headed to Belfast to engage with schoolchildren, part of a growing football fanbase across the pond.
The Jaguars, as we know, are becoming ever-more popular in the NFL’s biggest international market. Having played one game in London a season for the past decade (punctuated only by the COVID-affected season), the franchise will have back-to-back games in the UK in 2023.
Fans’ concerns about Shahid Khan’s long-term intentions have been assuaged by new stadium plans in Jacksonville. And it can be argued that playing an ‘away’ game versus the Bills at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium a week after their annual trip gives them a significant logistical advantage over a serious AFC rival. Maybe, just maybe, this relationship can be of benefit to the Jaguars, and not a hindrance.
Regardless, it seems the trio enjoyed their time in Northern Ireland’s capital city. Leaning into a more relaxed dietary regimen in the offseason, Josh Allen indulged in ‘fifteens’, a rather decadent local traybake stuffed with cherries and marshmallows. It appears to have been a hit:
“We came across this coffee shop, me and my wife, we were just a wee bit hungry, we thought we’ll try this. The woman in the shop said it’s ‘the fifteen’ - man I took one bite and I almost melted in my seat.”
Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster, Allen also enjoyed traveling to pastures new - and was impressed with the surroundings:
“This is my first time in Ireland, I love it - just a wee bit rainy out here, other than that it is beautiful, I love the scenery. I am a scenic person, so going to Londonderry, driving along the coast, a beautiful view, I got a lot of great pictures and I am glad to be out here.”
Taking off their tourist hats and putting on their Jaguars-branded football ones, Allen, Agnew and Lloyd were all impressed with the level of interest in the game at a grassroots level, particularly outside the NFL’s traditional market.
“The game should be available to everybody who wants to play the game,” Agnew said. “I had some kids at the camp go to me and say: ‘How do I get to the NFL?’ It just goes to show how much love for the game there is around the world. I think the opportunities are obvious in America, but I think we should make the opportunities present for anybody who wants to play the game.”
Any chance to give back with community work should be applauded; fellow Jags Tyson Campbell and Chad Muma have admirably launched their own camps this offseason. Yet, growing the sport overseas may not be seen as a priority for most Jaguars fans, despite Jacksonville apparently being at the forefront of every media or outreach opportunity. Almost shoehorned into an ambassador role for the NFL when the International Series was conceived, the franchise is in a much more strong and stable position today than it was back then.
For now, initiatives like this will be warmly welcomed. But come July 21st, it will be back to business.